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What is pain?

What is pain?

Pain is a natural systemic reaction. In its basic form, it is a beneficial phenomenon. Without the ability to feel pain humans would not be prepared for situations that can cause bodily injuries. Pain helps humans to learn to avoid dangerous stimuli.

Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. The sensation of pain is formed when the nerve endings that sense pain are irritated. This is the case, for example, when there is beginning tissue damage. Active substances that irritate the nerve endings are released in this specific area, and they cause a local inflammatory reaction. The irritation is transmitted via nerves to the spinal cord and then higher up to the central nervous system, where the sensation of pain is first formed.

Organs have different nerve endings, and the pain impulses travel to the central nervous system via various nerves. The nerve endings on the skin transmit pain quickly and the pain perceived in the brain corresponds clearly to the origination site. There are fewer nerve endings that sense pain in the internal organs, the impulses travel via slower neurofibrilla, and it is more difficult to locate the pain originating from there.

Short-term pain is called acute and long-term pain chronic pain. Persistent pain sometimes has no useful purpose; it may be just a nuisance. However, it may affect the ability to work and have a negative effect on life.

Different mechanisms that can strengthen or weaken the pain impulses exist at the pain origination site, on the way to the central nervous system and in the central nervous system itself. Generally, the tissue damage that caused the pain will heal, but if there are several factors that increase the pain level, the nervous system may become programmed wrongly, and the pain may become chronic.

The factors that can make one prone to chronic pain are lack of activity and a sedentary lifestyle, long time illnesses, sleeplessness, a learned behavioral model or continuous additional stimuli and psychic factors. Pain processes are linked with the emotional centers in the brain. If a person is depressed or anxious, it may worsen his pains.

When pain becomes chronic, it will be much more difficult to treat and the treatment outcomes are worse. Thus treating pain at the right time efficiently and appropriately is the best prevention of constant pain.

Pain News

The same painkiller is not effective for everyone


The Cochrane Library published an overview of 350 published reviews with 45 000 participants concerning painkillers in pain following surgery or removal of wisdom teeth. No drug gave good pain relief for everybody. The best result was pain relief in 70%, the worst drugs alleviated pain only in 30% of the patients.

Ibuprofen, diclofenac, etoricoxib, celecoxib, naproxen and codeine with paracetamol, gave good pain relief. Etoricoxib, celecoxib, naproxen, diflunisal and oxycodone with paracetamol had a duration of action more than 8 hours.

The results show that several pain medications and combinations thereof, are effective for many, but none of the drugs guarantees relief for everyone. Therefore, one should not be too surprised if they is no immediate good enough analgesic effect. In this situation the drug should be changed to another.

Pain as art

A collaboration with pain specialist Professor Joanna Zakrzewska, Deborah Padfield and facial pain clinicians and patient at University College London Hospital, produced an exhibition MASK:MIRROR:MEMBRANE. It gives sufferers a voice and studies pain as art.

Other painters have also tried to illustrate their pain. Place for pain exhibition.

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