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What Is Pain?

No-one really wants pain. Once you have it you want to get rid of it. This is understandable because pain is unpleasant. but the unpleasantness of pain is the very thing that makes it so effective and an essential part of life. Pain protects you, it alerts you to danger, often before you are injured or injured badly. It makes you move differently, think differently and behave differently, which also makes it vital for healing. It is usually really sensible to hurt.

Occasionally the pain system appears to act oddly - like the nail in your toe that may not even hurt until you notice blood at the injury site. Other times, the pain system actually fails - some life-threatening cancers aren't painful, which is the very reason they can go undetected and be so nasty!

We believe that all pain experiences are normal and are an excellent, though unpleasant, response to what your brain judges to be a threatening situation. We believe that even if problems do exist in your joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, immune system or anywhere else, it won't hurt if your brain thinks you are not in danger.

In exactly the same way, even if no problems whatsoever exist in your body tissues, nerves or immune system, it will still hurt if your brain thinks you are in danger. It is as simple, and as difficult, as that.

Most commonly, pain occurs when your body's alarm system alerts the brain to actual or potential tissue damage. But this is only part of a big story. pain actually involves all of your body systems and all of the responses that occur are aimed at protection and healing. However, when most of us think of pain we think of the experience of pain - that unpleasant and sometimes downright horrible experience that makes you take notice and motivates you to do something about the situation.

In fact, pain can be so effective that you can't think, feel or focus on anything else. If the brain thinks that experiencing pain is not the best thing for your survival (imagine a wounded soldier hiding from the enemy) you may not experience pain at the time of even very severe injury.

There are many myths, misunderstandings and unnecessary fears about pain. Most people, including many health professionals, do not have a modern understanding of pain. This is disappointing because we know that understanding pain helps you deal with it effectively.

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