What is pain?
Pain is an uncomfortable, unpleasant physical sensation as well as an emotional experience that occurs when tissues in the body are damaged.
The nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord and a network of nerves that run throughout your body. The brain is the control centre for your body.
There are several steps involved in feeling and reacting to pain:
Certain nerves throughout the body have endings known as pain receptors. These can be activated by pressure from a tumour or by chemicals released from damaged tissue.
The pain receptors then send messages along the nerves first to your spinal cord and then to your brain. When painful messages reach your brain, you feel pain.
The brain responds to pain by sending other messages back along the nerves to direct your reaction. For example, if you feel pain when you move your arm, you may react by keeping it still.
The brain can change the way you feel pain. For example, parts of the brain that control our emotions can increase or decrease the sensation of pain. So if you’re anxious you may feel more pain, and if you’re relaxed you may feel less pain.
Sometimes the nerves carrying messages to and from the brain become ‘sensitised’ or ‘wound up’. This means that you continue to feel pain even when what was causing the pain has been treated.