Most people fear being in pain. The simple fact of fearing that pain is going to increase may in itself make the pain worse. It is difficult to think and make decisions when you are in pain or frightened that pain will return.
There are several steps involved in feeling and reacting to pain:
- Certain nerves throughout the body have endings known as pain receptors. These can be activated by pressure from a tumour or by chemicals released from damaged tissue.
- The pain receptors then send messages along the nerves, first to your spinal cord and then to your brain. When painful messages reach your brain, you feel pain.
- The brain responds by sending other messages back along the nerves to direct your reaction. For example, if you feel pain when you move your arm, you may react by keeping it still.
The brain can change the way you feel pain. Parts of the brain that control our emotions can increase or decrease the sensation of pain. So if you’re anxious you may feel more pain, and if you’re relaxed you may feel less pain.
Sometimes the nerves carrying messages to and from the brain become ‘sensitised’ or ‘wound up’. This means that you continue to feel pain even when what was causing the pain has been treated.
For more information on Pain, please see the list of topics on the left