National Pain Week

There have been some ads on TV recently that talk about Nerve Pain as if trying to differentiate it from other types of pain. The facts are that that all pain involves our nervous system as part of any pain experience. Pain is actually a very subjective experience which is influenced by physical, psychological and environmental factors. It is an individual experience that can only be appreciated by the person experiencing the pain.

The name given to the receptors in body tissue that starts the communication process is “Nociceptors”. When triggered by actual or potential tissue damage, impulses travel from these nociceptors to the spinal cord where they synapse (communicate) with nerves travelling to various parts of our brain that will bring about adverse emotional feelings and stress responses. It is here that a person’s attitudes, beliefs and personality can strongly affect their pain experience.

In assessing pain health professionals will categorise pain as acute, sub-acute, recurrent or chronic. The key message I want to convey is that left untreated or under-treated acute pain can become chronic. Pain is a message from your body that something is wrong. Many people have the mindset that ignoring pain is somehow a virtue that makes you stronger. The reality is that you are just training your body to be desensitised to what is going on, in which case the “dis-ease” carries on unabated when what was a minor problem then presents itself as a major problem.

Taking this mental approach or repeatedly taking pain medications to mask what you are experiencing, is equivalent to taking the battery out of the smoke detector when you really should be fighting the fire!