What Is Pain?

What Is Pain?

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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?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 PainPain and FearOne 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.How We Feel PainYour body senses pain through two sets of nerve endings in the skin, which transmit pain. We get a burning or deep pain from slow transmission without a myelin sheath around the nerve. Sheaths speed the pain sensation’s transmission to your spinal chord and brain, so you can react faster. The fast ones have a fatty sheath around them, so you know when your hand’s on a hot burner. These sensations are mainly in the skin, but nearly every tissue has them, like those in the esophagus.Your body reacts to pain in one of two ways. You know the feeling when you eventually get used to that cold sensation of ice on your skin? Some pains are like that—you get used to tolerating them. But others are the exact opposite. These cause your cells to produce more neurotransmitters and/or more receptor sites, so each pain gets less bearable with time.This is why it’s important to learn ways of breaking your pain cycle. To break the pain cycle, you need a completely pain-free day every two weeks. If you don’t your body will build up too many pain receptors, causing your pain to increase.Types of PainWhile acute pain can contort you or make you writhe in a not-so-beautiful way, at least most acute pain is preventable. Chronic pain prevents you from acting in other ways that would make you feel beautiful.Pain is often associated with depression. Both types of pain serve as cause and effect; they’re wake-up calls, forcing a change in the status quo. You can learn to prevent back, joint, neck or head pain from reoccurring. The good news is, you can do many things to control and prevent pain, so you’re back to feeling like seven figures again.

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