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Can Your Brain Feel Pain

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For A Surprising Number Of Pain Sufferers We Are Looking In The Wrong Place

Did You Know? Your Brain Interprets Pain But Can’t Actually Feel It

Posted April 6, 2014

    You are probably aware that there are high rates of chronic pain in todays world. The Institute of Medicine estimated that up to a 100 million people in the U.S. have some forms of chronic pain. Physicians get limited training about pain other than a basic understanding that physical injuries or structural abnormalities cause pain. Therefore, it is our job as doctors to find the culprit causing pain in order to eradicate it. However, pain is actually very complex, especially when it comes to the role of the brain and pain that has become chronic.

    Lets look at acute pain first. When an injury occurs, the damaged area activates nerve cells to send signals of distress to the brain. These signals are received in the automatic, subconscious parts of the brain for very rapid processing. This system functions to act in case of an emergency so that we will be able to quickly remove a hand from a hot stovetop. This very rapid processing occurs before the signal has time to reach the higher cortex for more complex .

    It is the job of the amygdala and limbic structures of the brain to alert us in case of danger. An injury will typically cause the danger signal to activate, which in turn triggers the cortex of the brain to register pain. Thus pain is a response of the brain to a signal of danger. The actual experience of pain is in the head, not in the body. And, surprisingly, this is true of all forms of pain.

    To your health,

    This Post Has 4 Comments

  • Cynthia Sue Timko 28 Jul 2014Reply

    Anyone, medical or psychilogical professional on any level, and all patient suffering from chronic pain, should read a boo called The Pain Chronicles, by Melanie Thernstrom. It may be in your head, alright, but never let anyone even hint that it is not very real, very debilitating and very serious. It may be in your head alright, but due to something physically, mentally wrong with what is in your head as in my case. I have struggled with it for about 30 years. NEVER assume that chronic pain is purely or even mostly psychological, though it is true that depression and pain use similar, if not the same, nerve paths. It is a terrible unending loop: the worse one gets the worse the other gets, and the worse the first gets, and so on, untill omeone actually believes that you really do have genuine pain from a physical cause and is able to treat it adequately. Anti-depression therapy may be needed as well if it has gone on long enough. Chronic pain is depressing, very depressing.

  • Faith L 4 Aug 2014Reply

    I am curious what the author and reseachers would think of the connection of self-harm and pain. The idea of replacing emotional pain for physcal pain and the psychology that involes. Why would the mind rather that in some people?

  • So The Brain Can Feel Pain

    The brain, among many of its functions, is in charge of interpreting the signals from our body that inform us of pain, in this way we can set in motion mechanisms that help us relieve it

    However, the brain itself as an organ does not have pain receptors. This makes possible brain surgeries in which the person is awake while the neurosurgeon intervenes to remove, for example, a tumor.

    This allows you to proceed with the intervention with great care, making sure that areas such as language or memory are not damaged.

    Even in recent years, brain interventions have been performed while awake patients played their favorite instruments in order not to damage any nerve endings and to keep intact the functions that could be affected.

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    Overload Yourself With Positivity To Lessen The Hurt

    It might sound ridiculous, particularly when you’re suffering from pain that seems insurmountable, but positive thoughts and emotions can actually counteract those bad feelings.

    When you’re feeling nothing but negativity, like fear and insecurity, you create the perfect breeding ground for pain. The “weaker,” or more negative, your mind is, the more you feel the full effects of whatever is ailing you. Conversely, when you feel safe, secure, and comfortableyet encounter painyou respond with less physical feeling.

    Image via Shutterstock

    Surprisingly, just as pain can build over time and make you feel even weaker, positive thoughts grow and compound as well, according to recent research published in American Psychologist. The more you tweak your perspective and focus on the positive rather than giving in to your negative tendencies, the stronger your emotional resiliency becomes.

    However, you need to overwhelm yourself with positivity to reap its pain-relieving benefits, according to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading scholar in the area of positive psychology and author of Positivity. Because your negative bias is both strong and inherent, your brain requires three positive experiences to help you begin thinking in a kinder way. Put this into practice to prepare for your next painful encounter by thinking about every situation from a positive point of view.

    The Battle Over Pain In The Brain

    Labor Mini human brain can feel pain

    A new study adds to a heated debate about where pain signals are processed

    Pain is an unpleasant but necessary sensation. The few people born without the ability to feel it must approach day-to-day tasks with extra caution. Without the ability to sense the effects of a broken bone or burned skin, its difficult to avoid harm. On the other hand, too much pain can be debilitating. Individuals with chronic pain often experience a host of additional negative effects on mental and physical health. Despite recent advances in uncovering the underlying mechanisms of pain perception in the brain, scientists are still debating the questions of where and how pain is processed.

    Over the years neuroscientists have identified the pain matrix, a set of brain areas including the anterior cingulate cortex, thalamus and insula that consistently respond to painful stimuli. Some researchers have since applied this concept to conclude that that rejection hurts because social pain and physical pain share similar mechanisms in the brain. Others have suggested that brain imaging could be an objective measure of pain for diagnosis and drug development, and even as evidence in court.

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    You Experience Nausea Or Vomiting

    Encephalitis can give you feelings of nausea, Dr. Dean says. The usual cause of this type of brain inflammation is a viral infection like the herpes simplex virus. In fact, brain inflammation due to herpes makes up 10 percent of all cases of encephalitis in the United States per year. Other symptoms include a stiff neck, drowsiness, and general weakness, so speak to your doctor if you notice any of these ailments.

    So You Feel Like Turning Japanese

    Like the 80s English band, The Vapors, you might feel like turning Japanese, but of course you cant. You might not be able to move to Japan or even buy sushi where you live. But you could have your own amazing miniature Japanese doll house! This one is sold as a kit from Billy, a Japanese dollhouse company.

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    Can The Brain Repair Itself

    When we suffer an injury, our skin and tissues regenerate. But the damage to the brain tends to be permanent, it has a limited regenerative capacity.

    In this brief article we answered the question Does the brain feel pain? We demonstrated whether the brain is capable of feeling pain and how it processes pain from other organs of the human body.

    If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

    At The Pool With Your Young Children

    How does your brain respond to pain? – Karen D. Davis

    Your son or daughter is looking forward to showing off their newly learned swimming skills at the community pool. But once you arrive, theres so much loud noise from other children playing that you notice your child become hesitant.

    Everyone gathered around the pool seems to have a loud squeaky pool toy or is crunching a loud snack. When your child dips their feet in the water, they start having an emotional outburst running out of the water and refusing to try again.

    While the water was the trigger factor in this scenario, it was the other environmental stimulants that caused sensory overload.

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    Chronic Pain And Your Brain

      In my practice, I find that many of the people I work with may not be completely aware of how powerful the mind can be. Particularly when we experience any physical pain, our first thought is often what medication to take or what can a doctor do to fix this quickly.

      Pain-killers or injections tend to be the first stop for those dealing with pain, but even things like massage, physical therapy and chiropractic work are also often part of the process for many patients. While these treatments can be helpful for many, pain often persists for some patients. And pain becomes chronic when it lasts for months or even years.

      How Pain Works

      How does pain work exactly? When we are injured, nerve cells in the injured area send distress signals to the brain and the amygdala and limbic system alert us that there is danger present. Once the brains danger signals activate, our brain registers pain. This all happens very quickly. And in fact, we can have an injury and have no pain at all. An example of this is when you cut yourself and dont feel it until you actually see blood. You may not realize you have a cut until the sight of the wound visually registers in your brain. That is when your brain understands that something dangerous has happened.

      Mind-Body Pain

      Differentiating between pain that has a clear structural source and pain that originates in your brain can be complicated. Lets look at some statistics.

      New Concept of Pain

      Other Conditions

      Changing your Brain

      Compensating For Lack Of Pain

      Pain is the body’s alarm system. Without it, you can be unaware of injuries, even if they’re serious. You may re-injure yourself regularly because there’s no pain to warn your that you’re doing too much on, say, a broken leg.

      When you have CIPA, it’s important to learn how to prevent injuries and to monitor injuries carefully so they don’t become infected. These can be difficult lessons for children to learn, so it’s up to the adults in their life to pay close attention and regularly check for injuries.

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      You Feel More Down Than Usual

      When your brain is inflamed you may also experience depression. Again, this type of inflammation is usually lifestyle-related. As Health Coach and a Nutritional Therapist, Christina Tsiripidou tells Bustle, eating meals that are high in toxic protein or proteins that are genetically modified, and low in vegetables and healthy fats, can contribute to this. Not getting enough sleep and poor stress management skills can also have a way of making this worse.

      Conditions Associated With Sensory Overload

      The Battle over Pain in the Brain

      Anyone can experience sensory overload. Sensory overload is also a common symptom of certain health conditions.

      Scientific research and firsthand accounts tell us that autistic people experience sensory information differently. Autism is associated with hypersensitivity to sensory input, making sensory overload more likely.

      With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , sensory information competes for your brains attention. This can contribute to symptoms of sensory overload.

      Mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD can also trigger sensory overload. Anticipation, fatigue, and stress can all contribute to a sensory overload experience, making senses feel heightened during panic attacks and PTSD episodes.

      Fibromyalgia is related to abnormal sensory processing. Researchers are still working to understand how this relates to fibromyalgia pain. Frequent sensory overload can be a symptom of fibromyalgia.

      Some people who have multiple sclerosis report experiencing sensory overload as a symptom of the condition.

      Since MS is a condition that has to do with nerve impulses, it makes sense that too much stimulation from your senses can trigger sensory overload, especially when youre having a flare-up of MS symptoms. Learn more about coping with sensory overload when you have MS.

      Other conditions related to sensory overload include:

      • sensory processing disorder

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      Endorphins Can Also Release Stress And Create A Feeling Of Well

      Endorphins are the bodys natural painkillers. Endorphins are released by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in response to pain or stress, this group of peptide hormones both relieves pain and creates a general feeling of well-being.

      The name of these hormones comes from the term “endogenous morphine.” “Endogenous” because theyre produced in our bodies. Morphine refers to the opioid painkiller whose actions they mimic.

      About 20 different types of endorphins exist. The best studied of these is beta-endorphin, which is the one associated with the runners high. We also release endorphins when we laugh, fall in love, have sex, and even eat a delicious meal.

      Your Guide To The Shades Of Phlegm

      The most common form of cough can usually be blamed on a viral upper airway infection.

      Inhaled viruses enter the cells lining your airways, hijack the cells resources to replicate, then burst out. They kill the cell in the process before infecting its neighbour.

      Continual coughing is triggered by pressure from swelling in the cells that line the throat and lungs and the chemical soup secreted by the viruses, immune response and dying cells. The colour of your phlegm can provide doctors with hints about whats going on:

      Yellow: If your immune system detects infection, it will recruit neutrophils white blood cells that help fight airway infections. Theyre faintly green due to the pigment myeloperoxidase. This will turn your phlegm light green, usually perceived as yellow when mixed with mucous.

      Green: As infection progresses, the neutrophil concentration peaks. Concentrated myeloperoxidase renders your phlegm truly green.

      Red: Bleeding airways turn phlegm red. This is usually caused by minor erosion during infection, but it can suggest a more serious cause .

      Black/brown: Tar from heavy smoking turns phlegm black or brown.

      Creamy white: Persistent airway inflammation without infection can attract other white blood cells that cloud up otherwise clear phlegm.

      Dr Sarah Holper is a neurology registrar at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia.

      To order a copy for £13.35 , visit or call 020 3308 9193.

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      Ventricles And Cerebrospinal Fluid

      Deep in the brain are four open areas with passageways between them. They also open into the central spinal canal and the area beneath arachnoid layer of the meninges.

      The ventricles manufacture cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, a watery fluid that circulates in and around the ventricles and the spinal cord, and between the meninges. CSF surrounds and cushions the spinal cord and brain, washes out waste and impurities, and delivers nutrients.

      Treatment For Sensory Overload

      Can we trick the brain to interpret something not painful as pain?

      There are currently not many treatment options for sensory overload. Most treatment boils down to avoiding trigger situations and keeping your body as rested and well-hydrated as possible.

      Occupational therapy and feeding therapy can help children manage stimulation and triggers. A method of therapy called sensory integration has found support among researchers and therapists, although researchers are still working to understand how sensory integration helps the brain.

      Treating related conditions can improve sensory overload symptoms. The medication aripiprazole has been found to improve sensory processing in autistic people, for example.

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      Compensating For Lack Of Sweat

      Many of the same measures can both prevent overheating and cool you or your child down when overheating.

      • Avoid exertion in hot environments.
      • Stay in the shade as much as possible.
      • Rest often in the heat.
      • Drink cool liquid or eat popsicles.
      • Wear lightweight, loose, light-colored clothing made of breathable fibers .
      • Use air conditioning when possible.
      • Use cooling products or cold compresses.
      • Take cool baths, especially before and after exercise.
      • Go to a swimming pool or use a kiddy pool at home.

      For high fevers, use:

      Why Do We Feel Pain

      Ouch! When you whack your toe against the table leg or throw out your back playing tennis, here’s how your body and brain let you know that you’ve been hurt.

      Everyone has felt the ache of a stubbed toe, the twinge of a pulled muscle, or the throbbing of a bad headache but do you know why? The pain response we take for granted is actually a sophisticated and instantaneous chain reaction.

      Pain happens for one simple reason: to protect you. If your brain registers pain, you typically stop doing what caused it. It goes back to the “fight or flight” instinct, says Sujittra Tongprasert, MD, an anesthesiologist with the University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky. Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that what you are doing is harmful, and that you need to stop.

      The Pain Process

      Pain starts at the source of an injury or inflammation, whether it’s your toe or your lower back. When you injure yourself, the body’s automatic response is to stimulate pain receptors, which in turn release chemicals, says Dr. Tongprasert.

      These chemicals, carrying the message Ouch, that hurts, go directly to the spinal cord. The spinal cord carries the pain message from its receptors all the way up to the brain, where it is received by the thalamus and sent to the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that processes the message.

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