Monday, April 10, 2017

Pain is a Warning Signal

This article is a recent addition to my Power of Belief series (an excerpt for Part III). It is a simplified explanation of what pain is and how pain signals 'work'. For those dealing with short term or chronic pain, or trying to learn more about pain in general, I hope you find it a useful overview.

What is Pain Sensation and Pain Perception?                          

Pain is a warning signal. Pain is an alert, which our body uses to warn us about danger and harm. Pain is a fast, unpleasant, intense message that grabs our attention and shouts, "Something is wrong!" These alerts are meant to be uncomfortable, even awful, because their purpose is so incredibly important. They are the quickest way for our body to tell us, 'you are being harmed'. And they are a powerful motivator to avoid potential danger.

Pain is a process. While pain feels instantaneous, it's actually just very fast. Our body alerts us to pain using multiple steps in a special alert system. This system aims to tell us about pain in a way that is (1) fast and (2) informative. To meet these goals, pain sends multiple alerts, which range from simple (immediate) to complex (less immediate). They also operate on different levels of consciousness, working consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously (Young, 2005). Pain operates at these different levels and complexities for our benefit, in order to help our body and mind make better judgments for injuries and dangers (Flor et al., 1990).

Pain is a manifold message. Pain alerts work in tandem for most injuries. For example, our body often moves from a painful source, like fire, before we even feel it! Your body can process pain more quickly than your mind, so it uses that information to act fast. However, your mind will feel it soon. And that sharp pain of a fresh burn can help remind you to protect your new injury. Extended pain from a burn also helps to encourage keeping it clean and bandaged. For manageable and short-term injuries, pain signals can help you to take proper care and heal faster! Unfortunately, if the source of pain cannot be helped or healed, pain can become problematic and debilitating.

Pain can be helpful. While pain feels bad and is definitely something we wish to avoid, it ultimately functions to improve health, wellness, and lifespan. Pain is valuable, when it is functioning properly. Your body and mind both use pain to guide goals and actions. Pain gives immediate consequences for injury, to help prevent our bodies from getting hurt (or hurt worse), and it helps reduce loss of limb or bodily function (Chapman et al., 2008). As such a critical warning system, its alerts will be loud and the mind is attuned to sensing them. There is even research that supports that pain can intensify when we try to suppress it/resist it (Turner et al., 2002). Pain wants us to 'get' its signal.

Consider zombies in popular shows and fiction; zombies are often unconcerned with limbs getting injured or even falling off. Without pain, they can simply ignore these losses, and their mobility suffers for it. Without basic warnings, their bodies quickly fall apart.

While pain may seem a nuisance, its signals are extremely valuable for our well-being and survival (when properly functioning). How does the process work though, and why is it possible for it to 'go wrong'?

Pain has its uses: it warns us when something is harmful,
and it helps us take care of injuries while they heal

Springtime Announcement: Site Updates

Sunshine and Spring
Hello everybody, and happy spring! After a long, long winter, I have been loving seeing the sun again. I hope you have been able to enjoy and see the sun as well! It's a great motivator for me to get outside and exercise (even a little bit).

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Site Redesign Status
I appreciate everyone's patience with the website redevelopment and re-organization. From volunteers for contributions to sustained visits and readers, it has all been so encouraging to receive. I cannot wait to debut the new format, and I truly hope it is beneficial to everyone who visits.

There are still kinks to be worked out, and I am working diligently to smooth them down. Learning coding has been a real journey, and I know that some of the broken links have been more than frustrating. I am also still arranging different contributions from those who are interested. If anyone wishes to contribute, whether one time or repeatedly, or has ideas they wish to share, please let me know! I am working to make this site less me-centric, and ideas from others are key to this goal.

A lot of time and efforts have been refocused for this site's purpose, and it is exciting to work to turn it all back outwards. The ultimate goal is to provide resources and hope to others. Hopefully, the improvements to content and site design will make it all worth it! Thank you, for continuing to value and visit this work. Your support is everything!

Writing for the Meantime
Until I can finalize the behind the scenes, I will resume writing short and/or 'opinion' type posts. While these may be less informative than my more research-oriented than my more time consuming posts (such as those on pain, depression, optimism, etc.), I think they can provide some much needed content.

Little bit 'o writing (credit:

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About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.