The Experience of Pain is More Complex Than We Think:
Pain science is a topic that is gaining a lot of traction recently and our understanding & perception of pain. Traditionally, pain has always been thought of as a signal that informs you about tissue damage or something being actively injured. However, we are learning more and more that the feeling of pain is not always indicative of something actually going wrong in the tissues and that body region.
Pain is a universal human experience that often prompts us to seek relief and understand its underlying causes. In recent years, the field of pain science has made significant progress in unraveling the complexities of pain perception and interpretation. By exploring the intricate interplay between biology, psychology, and past individual experiences, we can gain a deeper understanding of pain and its subjective nature.
Check out this video explaining Pain Science:
This video is just designed to shed light onto the topic of pain science and not diagnose or treat current issues or chronic pain problems.
Pain is a complex sensory reception and emotional experience that serves as a protective mechanism for our bodies. It involves a highly intricate interplay of physiological processes and neural pathways. When tissue damage or injury occurs, specialized nerve endings called nociceptors transmit signals to the spinal cord and brain. These signals are then processed and interpreted by various regions of the brain, including the somatosensory cortex, limbic system, and other basal ganglia.
One good way to help understand this is that pain is an output not an input. In other words there are not true “pain” signals going to your spinal cord and then brain. When there is actual tissue damage these signals go to your spinal cord & brain and get ramped up or ramped down, then an interpretation is made. But whether you feel pain or not is truly dependent upon what your brain does with these signals, so in other words, pain is an output (interpretation) of a complex perception of multiple influencing factors. Not simply correlated to the actual tissue damage in the body.
This is where it gets complex.
In the words of Lil Wayne- “pain is an opinion”.
So pain perception is not solely dictated by the presence of tissue damage. Factors such as previous experiences, emotions, beliefs, and cultural influences can profoundly shape how we experience and interpret pain. This means that two individuals with the same injury may have vastly different pain experiences due to these subjective factors. Additionally, the brain can create a pain experience when there is no tissue damage present. It can create an output of pain inappropriately (e.g. phantom limb pain with amputees).
The brain plays a pivotal role in interpreting and modulating pain signals. It actively filters, amplifies, or suppresses these signals based on a variety of factors, regardless if the danger is real or perceived (i.e. if the presence of tissue damage is real or perceived). For example, the anticipation of pain or fear can heighten our perception of pain, while distraction, adrenaline, or positive emotions can lessen it.
The “biopsychosocial” model of pain provides a framework for understanding how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to influence pain perception (the interplay between biology, psychology, and social influences in each particular person). Biological factors include genetics, nerve sensitization, and hormonal imbalances. Psychological factors encompass emotions, past experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and coping strategies. Social factors involve cultural, social, family dynamics, environmental influences, and the impact of social support networks.
Chronic pain, which persists beyond the normal healing time, often involves complex interactions between all these factors described above. The brain’s plasticity allows it to undergo changes that can amplify pain signals even after the initial injury has healed. This emphasizes the importance of addressing not only the physical aspects of pain but also the psychological and social factors that contribute to its chronicity.
Pain is a real experience for people, regardless of the chronicity. So we’re not saying it’s all in their head, they’re crazy, or overly sensitive. However, we do know that pain level doesn’t correlate with the extent of actual tissue damage. Pain is an experience or phenomenon unique to each person which is why some people can often have a high or lower pain threshold than others and this can also be changed within the same person based on different circumstance such as what is the implication of these pain, is there previous trauma associated with this type of pain, how stressful was the event that caused it etc.
If you’re still battling pain you can’t seem to shake and this problem is limiting you from doing the activities that you LOVE, give us a shout today at 561-899-8725 or email us directly at Team@AthleteRC.com we can directly diagnose what the problem is and how to solve it together for the long-term.
Imagine getting that pain fixed – allowing you to really get after your workouts and do the activities you LOVE most in life. We can help solve this problem for you.