Understanding pain

Persistent pain is very different from the kind of pain you experience when you touch something hot or injure yourself. It goes on long after the original cause, and affects different parts of the brain and nervous system.

Understanding pain in less than five minutes

Here’s a short video that helps explain how pain works, featuring the well known cartoon character ‘Brainman.’

Pain and the brain – how it really works

Pain is one of our protective systems. It is designed to keep us safe and well, and it’s controlled by the brain.
Our brain decides when to protect us based on two types of information:
  1. information it receives from areas of the body, and
  2. information from elswhere including pain memories, your mood, past experiences and more (see illustration)
If the brain decides it needs to protect us, pain will happen.
In persistent pain, even though the original trigger for the pain may have stopped, the other factors are still there, so the brain becomes over-protective and keeps the pain going.
It’s a bit like the brain struggling to turn down the ‘volume control’.

Retrain your brain

It can come as a bit of suprise to realise that you can actually ‘retrain your brain’ to turn the pain down.
The way to do it is by getting fitter and stronger, balancing your activities and focusing more on your goals and less on the pain.
Over time, as you are living a more healthy life, being more active and doing things normally and focusing on living life, your brain will become less overprotective and your pain more manageable.

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