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What is pain?

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Everyone experiences pain now and then, which we can find annoying, but actually pain is a warning from our body. Pain protects and warns the body from danger and further damage. Think about the times when you stick your hand under the hot water tap. That hurts, so you automatically withdraw your hand and this prevents you from getting burnt. In this article you will find answers to the questions: what is pain and what happens to your body when you are in pain.

What is pain?

Pain is an unpleasant feeling that you can experience. It is not visible or measurable. Only you feel or know how much pain you feel. You feel pain where the body is damaged, as in the example above with your hand. Good to know is that the degree of pain that you experience does not have to correspond to the severity of the injury or damage to the body. Being in a lot of pain does not mean that there is a lot of damage. This is the case with athletes who can keep on going despite an injury and discover only after the game that they are in pain. Or if you had a few sleepless nights, you experience pain much faster and more intense than when you are not tired. Pain is therefore not only dependent on the extent of damage in the body, but also of psychological, physical and social aspects.

Various types of pain:

How does pain work?

The body is wired with sensors; nerve endings that are connected to the spinal cord. The sensors send messages to the brains via the nervous system. Along the way these messages pass through so-called switching stations in the spinal cord and in the brains. This determines whether a message is sent or not. The messages move from substation to substation. The particular thing is that these substations can also stop, weaken or strengthen a message. They are gatekeepers that determine the extent to which the signals are transmitted. For example, if your hand is damaged by burns or another injury, then the sensors in the hand send a message to the brains via the switching stations in the spinal cord. The brains then ensure that there is a feeling of pain, causing you to pull out your hand from under the hot tap.

When does pain occur?

Pain occurs when the body is damaged, for example through a fall, hit, stab or burn. Pain can also be caused by an inflammation in the body, with swelling, crushing, oxygen deficiency or overexertion of the body. Sometimes there is no clear physical cause for the pain. In that case, emotional or social aspects often play a role. That is why people with tension, stress or who lost a loved one can feel physical pain.

Acute and chronic pain

A distinction should be made between acute and chronic pain.

  1. Acute pain occurs immediately after an injury or damage to the body and passes relatively quickly. If you burn your hand, then you will experience acute pain. Pain after surgery is called acute pain.
  2. Chronic pain is pain that persists, at least 3 to 6 months. We speak of chronic pain when there is no longer substantiated evidence of tissue damage. This is the case when pain is still present after a disease or disorder that has already been cured. Chronic pain has no warning function anymore and is basically useless.

There are exceptions to when we call pain, acute or chronic. For example, if nerve damage or a malfunctioning nerve are the cause for the long-term pain. There is tissue damage but it is still called chronic pain. In addition, the cause for pain is often unknown. It is often also unknown whether there is any tissue damage. If this pain persists for a long time, it is also called chronic.

What can you do when you are in pain?

This article has already answered to the question: what is pain? Fortunately, there are several things you can do when you are in pain. It is important to first determine the cause of the pain. By treating the cause, the pain will often disappear. When there is no obvious cause, you can wait until the pain passes away by itself or you can take a painkiller. These can be found in our online pharmacy. Do you experience severe pain or does it persist over a longer period of time? Please consult your GP for advice. He or she may prescribe you specific or stronger painkillers.

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