Pain Disorder

We should be thankful for feeling pain once in awhile. Pain is our body’s way of letting us know that something is wrong. It alerts us to pay attention and to change our behavior. Pain will draw our attention to a burn or cut, a broken bone, a rupture, even stomach and intestinal problems. Even minor discomfort is a signal of a strain or cramp, toothache or an infection. Without the warning of pain, the effects of unchecked infections and injuries can accumulate (Neese, 1991).

Many people live with chronic daily pain. The suffering of such people with persistent or recurring pain, prompts two questions: What is pain? How can we control it?

What Is Pain?

Pain is interpreted by nerve fibers leading to the brain. If there has been no remedy, the pain signal is repeated – with more pain. This is our body’s warning system. It reminds the brain that the body has been injured, and continues until an injury has healed. A second type of pain is carried by small nerve fibers. This type of pain is slower, nagging, aching, widespread and very unpleasant (McMahon & Koltzenburg, 2005). It gets worse if the pain stimulus is repeated. This is the body’s reminder system. It reminds the brain that the body has been injured. For example, lower back pain has this quality.

Pain experience can vary widely, depending on our physiology, our experience attention and our surrounding culture. Pain is a property not only of the senses, of the region where we feel it, but of our brain and of our expectations as well (Armel & Ramachandran, 2003).

Phantom Pain

People may also experience phantom pain sensations, perhaps when reading a gruesome story or watching a horror movie. Amputees may feel pain in nonexistent limbs (Melzack, 1993). An amputee may even try to take a step onto a phantom leg. Even those born without a limb sometimes experience sensations from a missing arm or leg (Melzack, 1998).

Often unpleasant emotions, such as fear and anxiety increase pain while pleasant emotions decrease it (Rainville, 2004). 

How Do We Control Pain?

In some cultures, people endure tattooing, cuts, and burns with little apparent pain. But how? Very likely the answer involves psychological factors that anyone can use to reduce pain, such as anxiety reduction, control and attention (Mailis-Gagnon & Isrealson, 2005).

Relaxation, deep breathing, gentle massage and distraction, or focusing on something pleasant that draws attention away from the painful stimulation. Counting backwards by 3s is an especially effective way to increase pain tolerance (Fernandez & Turk, 1989). A pleasing view may also relax and distract. In examining hospital records, it was discovered that surgery patients assigned to rooms overlooking trees required less pain medication and had shorter stays than patients assigned to identical rooms overlooking a brick wall. Burn victims receiving acute care receiving computer-generated virtual reality received reduced brain pain-related activity in Functional MRI scans (Hoffman, 2004).

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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