Pain is complex. But don’t let that scare you. It’s important to understand.
First of all, it turns out that the “average” person can understand how pain works on a scientific basis.1 You don’t need to be a health care professional or scientist.
Second, why learn about pain? Because it helps you deal with it better. And when you are in pain, you want all the help you can get. Not to mention that pain science education has actually been shown to prevent and reduce pain.
And finally, it’ll help you decide what might work for you. This can save you a lot of time and money that you might have wasted on stuff that doesn’t work.
There is much to learn, but let’s not get bogged down with details yet.
For now, watch this video for a great overview of how pain works:
1. Pain is in your brain. (this don’t mean “it’s all in your head” as if it’s not real. All pain is real! It’s just that the perception of pain is in your brain, and not simply because you twisted your ankle. Just like how different wavelengths of light bouncing off a painting is perceived in your brain as a beautiful piece of art.)
2. You can have tissue damage with no pain, and vice versa: you can have no damage, yet still have pain! Pain and tissue damage are not always related. Read more here: Damage does not ’cause’ pain.
3. ‘Chronic Pain’, is pain that persists even after tissue damage has had plenty of time to heal (about 3-6 months).
4. There are many factors that contribute to your perception of pain. Biological, psychological, social, and cultural.
This video provides an excellent introduction to your pain education. Of course, it leaves a lot of detail out, as it is a very short video (so we will forgive them). I don’t like how it gives the impression that only ‘chronic’ pain involves changes in your brain. It happens right away, and context and fear are important factors even for acute pain. Otherwise, this video sums up all the important stuff.
If you are looking for more information, check out the Pain Section of this site.