What Is Pain?

Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen explain the science of pain and how chronic pain effects your overall health and well-being.

Your hair’s soft, your skin radiates and your body is at its fittest. Be proud, you look like a million bucks! But here’s the catch—this all means zilch if you can’t pick yourself up off the couch. Suddenly, a million bucks feels more like 100 grand in debt.

This is what pain does: it slows us down, debilitates us, and is the reason we visit the doctor. And if you don’t feel beautiful, who really cares how perfectly plump your lips look?

Pain drains you of energy. You’ll get dressed and feel ready to take on the new day for, uh, about 30 seconds. Then, the chronic pain sets in, making you look older and more haggard. This makes you feel old, no matter what your age. When you can’t bounce back like you used to, you need a pain management plan.

MORE: How Healthy Do You Feel?

What Is Pain?

What is Pain?
Pain is clearly different than sensations like sound and touch. Why does pain hurt instantly? It’s nature’s way of alerting you that something’s wrong. Pain is more complicated than other sensations; it takes on a life of its own. If it’s prolonged and tissue becomes damaged, your pain will worsen with time.This even changes how you sense it in your brain, which changes how your DNA’s expressed.

Let’s explore how pain works. If you drop a pot on your foot, the impact causes foot nerve endings to start firing and sending signals so your muscles contract. Then, your foot moves away quickly, and maybe it’ll writhe in pain to remind you to keep away. After treatment, a physical pain often evolves into emotional pain. This is what we think of as fear.

RELATED RESEARCH: Redheads Feel More Pain

Pain and Fear
One way to think of fear is as “pain remembered.” The memory works quickly and subconsciously so we avoid the same situation in the future. Our nervous system uses this smoke detector principle: false alarms (though annoying) are still less harmful than failing to react to a real crisis.

The cues of a threatening situation might not always be obvious. It may be too late if your reaction to danger is delayed. A single lapse in dealing with a life-threatening situation can be fatal. So, there’s a selective advantage to gear up the fear response and become more vigilant at the slightest sign of danger.

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