The many faces of pain

May 8, 2019 - 4 minutes read

Nowadays we associate pain with damage to our bodies but the Ancient Greek philosophers considered pain to be an emotion. So, what is exactly is pain and how can it affect our daily lives?

Pain is a sensation, which means the brain interprets it before it is consciously felt. The brain fuses together information from the mind as well as from the body to make this interpretation, meaning that thoughts and emotions both conscious and unconscious can have a dramatic effect on the intensity of our suffering.

Acute pain is short lived and usually a direct response to an injury, normally leading to inflammation such as a bruise or swelling. Most healing is complete within six weeks and nearly all injured tissue is healed within six months. You may also experience acute pain through overeating, stomach ache, or headaches associated with alcohol consumption.

 

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for three months or more, the word chronic meaning long term. It can manifest after an injury and can persist even after the tissue has healed or can be caused by damage that persists over time – arthritis being a good example. If pain remains when there’s no continuing physical damage this is known as chronic pain syndrome. A UK survey found that 31% of men and 37% of women now suffer with this condition.

Neuropathic pain is pain within the nervous system and often investigations are unable to discover the route cause. A possibility is that background ‘noise’ in the nervous system becomes somewhat amplified. As the nervous system responds to pain it increases the capacity to process the pain signals. This type of pain can also occur as burning or electric shock sensations and has been known to occur even after limbs have been amputated.

Pain occurs on two levels – primary being the sensations felt by the body and secondary being the thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories associated with pain. Therefore, the pain we feel is a fusion of both primary and secondary pain and this can give us a way of greatly reducing or even eliminating our pain. Our suffering may gradually evaporate when we allow our minds, through the practice of mindfulness, to recognise and Pain occurs on two levels – primary being the sensations felt by the body and secondary being the thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories associated with pain. Therefore, the pain we feel is a fusion of both primary and secondary pain and this can give us a way of greatly reducing or even eliminating our pain. Our suffering may gradually evaporate when we allow our minds, through the practice of mindfulness, to recognise and understand the different elements of pain and learn how to temper its power and hold over us.

For the next few weeks I will be sharing some mindfulness meditation at Carole Lade Therapy on Facebook that helped me overcome my problems with chronic pain, so please like, follow and share some hopefully useful tips.

Carole

Reference: Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing (2013), Vidyamala Burch and Dr Danny Penman