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Pain: All in Your Head?

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Thursday, 02 Mar 2017 04:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Emotional states clearly influence the experience of pain. For instance, if you are angry or anxious, your muscles will tighten, which can increase pain.

Talking a lot about pain with family and friends can increase our awareness of it and actually disrupt relationships.


One out of four chronic pain patients reports that their family members are tired of hearing about their pain.

Approximately 40 percent of people with chronic pain are not comfortable discussing it with others. As a result, they feel isolated regardless of whether they discuss their symptoms or not.

When we experience any form of pain, our brains attempt to inhibit the discomfort by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural analgesic chemicals.

But with chronic pain, this endorphin response is not effective in controlling the stimuli.

Even if someone does not appear to be in agony, scientific evidence shows that an individual’s pain can still exist and it can be identified in the brain.

Imaging studies using positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have shown that several brain regions become activated when we experience pain.

In addition to the anterior cingulate in the brain’s frontal lobe, the sensorimotor strip, which controls movement and sensation, and the amygdala, a region related to emotion, are involved in our experience of pain.

That’s why a person’s state of mind is so closely integrated with pain.

If you stub a toe, the sensory neurons in your toe detect the damage and shoot a message that travels along your spinal cord to your brain, where the thalamus (a region deep in the brain) receives the signal and sends it on to the cortex (the outer rim of the brain containing the grey matter and nerve cell bodies).

Your toe may feel like it is throbbing, but that’s just a mental projection.

Your brain then decides what level of damage has occurred and what response you will have, such as cursing or limping.
 

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One out of four chronic pain patients reports that their family members are tired of hearing about their pain.
pain, endorphin, MRI, neurons
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2017-39-02
Thursday, 02 Mar 2017 04:39 PM
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