A highly unpleasant physical sensation is known as pain. A person feels pain when the neurons send signals to the brain.
The experience of pain is different for the different individuals and each person describes the pain in its own way. This thing can make it difficult to define and treat the pain.
Pain can be for a short-term or a long-term, it can stay in one area and can also spread in the whole body. In this article, we will describe why we feel pain, so to know more read the article till the end.
What Are Nociceptors?
In our skin and other tissues of the body, there are present some special sensory neurons known as nociceptors. These neurons are responsible for translating certain stimuli into the action potentials which are then transferred to more central areas of the nervous system, such as the brain.
Nociceptors are classified into the four categories:
- Thermal Nociceptors: These are sensitive to low or high temperatures.
- The Mechanical Nociceptors: These types of neurons react to a strong pressure on the skin such as the pressure that occurs with blows and cuts.
- Polymodal Nociceptors: These are excited by a strong pressure i.e. heat or cold, and also by some chemical stimulation.
- The Silent Nociceptors: As suggested by the name, they remain silent until there is stimulation when there is inflammation around them. In that case they are more sensitive.
The Inflammatory Soup
Several chemicals are released into the area surrounding the nociceptors when there is a significant damage to the tissues. This produces inflammatory soup which is a mixture of acids that stimulates and energizes the nociceptors into a state known hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia is derived from the Greek language which means great pain.
Some inflammatory acids are:
- Prostaglandins: Released by damaged cells.
- Potassium: Released by damaged cells.
- Serotonin: Released by blood platelets.
- Bradykinin: Released by the blood plasma.
- Histamine: Released by mast cells.
Itching Instead Of Pain
It is very interesting that Histamine is experienced as an itch instead of pain when stimulating the nociceptors. The reason is still unknown and of course, to eliminate the itch, we use antihistamines.
There are also some tissues that contain nociceptors which do not carry the pain. For instance, there are pain receptors in the lungs that cause a cough, but they do not cause us to feel pain.
Why We Feel Pain?
The nerves that carry messages through the spinal cord from the nociceptors, follow different tracts and most of them go to the thalamus, where they are distributed to various higher centers. Some of them also reach the reticular formation and to the amygdala.
Reticular formation controls the state of alertness among other things and amygdala is a part of the limb system which is involved in emotion.
The referred pain is the feeling of pain that people feel in their arms and shoulders sometimes when they are having a heart attack. This pain occurs due to the way the nerves meet in the spinal cord.
Confusion of neural signals occurs and on this idea the theory of the gate is based. During this confusion it seems like some non-painful stimulation can interfere with the pain experience in some cases.
This is the detail that underlies the phenomena such as the benefits of rubbing a painful area, the use of cold or hot packs, acupuncture or acupressure and transcutaneous electrical stimulation.
Some people, who have experienced any damage in some areas of these tracts, feel a tingling sensation or burning which gets worse when they touch the area.
Some people experience a higher damage in the brain which leads them to feel a pain similar to other pains but this damage eliminates the connection with the emotional centers. That is why they feel pain but do not duffer.
What Is Phantom Pain?
A pain which feels like it is coming from the part which is no longer the part of the body is known as phantom pain. This pain is because of the fact that nociceptors are absent or damaged, the spinal cord neurons which are responsible for transmitting the pain messages, become overactive.
In a result, the brain receives the pain messages from the area where no tissue has been left. Enkephaline, endorphin and dynorphin are some specific chemicals collectively known as opiates, present in the brain and spinal cord.
As suggested from the name, these opiates are equivalent body of the opium and its derivatives and heroine and morphine. When these are released, the intensity of transmitted pain is decreased just like the heroine does.
God has created pain but e also created the system to cope the pain. There is a variety of things that actually decrease the intensity of pain or decrease the pain experiences. Some of the natural painkillers are:
- Breast milk for newborns.
A state of reduced pain experiences is logically known as hypoalgesia. Also, some people exist in the world, which have been born with a genetic disability to feel pain at all. But this disability exists very rarely in people and is considered as a blessing.
But it is also interesting that the percentage of early death in these people is very high. It is because usually the wounds, to which a normal person would surely pay attention, are ignored by a person with this rare disability and later these wounds develop to serious problems.
Such people were also reported to die of appendicitis just because they did not feel the pain and were unable to realize it.
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