Pain is often the first thing to arrive and the last thing to leave. Also, pain often appears in areas that don’t seem to be related to the problem area. So, what is pain and what determines when and where it arrives?
Firstly, what is pain?
The international association for the study of pain describe pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage”. The sensory experience is an input from your physical senses whether that is a change in temperature, touching a sharp object, or tasting a harsh chemical. The emotional experience is how you respond to the sensory input. For example, if we injure ourselves and we are in a low mood we are more likely to experience higher pain levels.
Tissue damage is also a determining factor. If we injure an area with a high density of pain (nociceptive) nerves we are more likely to experience higher levels of pain than if we damage an area with a low density of pain (nociceptive) nerves.
So, what determines where I feel my pain?
All of the sensory input in the body comes is transmitted through the nerves, into the spinal cord and then into the brain. The brain then sends pain signals down the spinal cords to the nociceptive nerves in the same area. The brain makes its decision on how many pain signals to send based on:
- What tissues are damaged
- How much tissue damage is present
- Our reaction to the tissue damage emotionally
These nociceptive nerves have a distinct pathway and the pain tends to follow that pathway. For example, if you injure your lower back you can experience pain in the buttock, leg and even the foot. This is because the nerves in the lower back form and travel down the back of the leg and into the foot.
If you are experiencing pain it is always best to get yourself checked out. Back pain is a response of the body to tell you that there is a problem. Without a thorough case history and examination it is hard to determine the primary pain source so that the correct care can be received. Chiropractors specialise in the treatment of back pain, neck pain, and headaches as well as other problems. They will diagnose and treat the problem as well as giving advice to stop the problem coming again in the future.