What is Pain? Current Knowledge from Pain Science

Pain is always created in the brain. 🧠 That doesn’t mean it’s all in your head. It’s still very real – it’s just a lot different to what we believed about pain a couple of decades ago.

We used to think there were “pain receptors” in the body that sent pain signals to the brain. It turns out, this isn’t the case.

Nociceptors send signals to the brain for processing. Nociceptors detect changes in temperature, pressure and chemicals and send “possible threat” messages to the brain.

The brain interprets this and decides how much protection you need. If the brain deems that pain will be protective (get you out of a potentially injurious situation), it will upregulate pain more than if it deems the situation safe.

Unfortunately… Pain can be learned. Our nervous system is great at learning. The brain can start to associate certain movements or situations with pain, even if the movement or situation is not causing tissue damage.
Pain is not an accurate indicator of tissue damage.

So how do we know if we have an overactive pain system?

Here are some indications that your pain may be more linked with the central nervous system (brain) rather than actual tissue damage:
🔵 A physical therapist / other healthcare professional has declared your injury as fully healed, but the pain persists
🔵 The pain spreads
🔵 The pain worsens
🔵 Lots of movements hurt
🔵 The pain is becoming less predictable
🔵 The pain worsens or lessens with certain mood states
🔵 The pain is linked to other “threats” in life

What can you do about persistent pain?

🟢 Find a good healthcare or exercise professional with knowledge of pain science to guide you
🟢 Learn more – painrevolution.org is a great resource with handouts (pain education has been proven to help reduce pain)
🟢 Keep moving, but progress slowly. You can’t fight an overactive pain system, you have to work with it gradually

Questions? Drop me a comment & I’ll do my best to answer!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s