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Why do I have Pain?

The Pathway

You stub your toe. Tiny pain receptors in the skin (nociceptors) are triggered and will send an electrical signal to the spinal cord in the lower back. The signal will then continue up the spinal cord to the brain. In the brain, the signal will reach the somatosensory cortex (deals with physical pain), the frontal cortex (responsible for thinking) and the limbic system (this area controls emotions). This will result in physical pain and an emotional reaction such as feeling annoyed.

Pain Affects Different People in Different Ways

There are many things that influence how each person interprets pain, such as emotional state, psychological state, previous pain memories, age, sex and culture. Even the pain's location doesn't necessarily indicate where the pain is coming from. This is called referred pain. The pain from a heart attack may seem like it's coming from the jaw, arm or abdomen.

Pain Types

Acute Pain

Acute pain usually lasts 3 - 6 months and causes soft tissue damage. An example would be a sprain / strain injury. The pain eventually resolves as the tissues heal.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain will last longer than 3 months and may get worse over time. It will often come and go as the years pass. It can persist even if the soft tissues have already healed. The most common examples of chronic pain are lower back pain, headaches and pain due to arthritis.

Pain may become chronic for several reasons:

1. Nociceptors and other nerves along the pain pathway may become too easily activated.

2. If a damaged nerve heals, it may heal in a way that causes it's function to become abnormal.

3. Pain receptors may become active due to inflammation.

4. The nervous system fails to dampen pain signals.

Neuropathic Pain

This type of pain is caused by abnormalities or damage in the brain, spinal cord or nerves and can be felt as shooting pain, burning or tingling. This can cause a person to feel pain due to things that aren't usually painful such as the gentle touch of bedclothes on the affected area. Also, things that would normally be painful can be amplified.

Psychogenic pain

In this case, pain is increased by psychological factors. Pain is amplified compared to what is usually experienced by other people with similar disorders. This doesn't mean the pain isn't real. All types of pain can be complicated by psychological factors.

Nociceptive pain

This type of pain is caused by injury to soft tissue such as a cut or a broken bone. It can be achy, sharp or throbbing as well as constant or intermittent. This form of pain is often worsened by movement.

For more information on pain, please feel free to ask us or visit our office. We specialize in the treatment of lower back pain, neck pain, arm and leg pain, joint pain, sciatica and disc herniation.

Dover (302) 678-8866

Seaford (302) 628-8008

Milford (302) 424-0556

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