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What Is Pain?

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) offers one of the most widely accepted descriptions of pain:

"Pain is an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage."


  • Pain is an output from your brain. Does this mean the pain is all in my head? No! Your pain is real, but the experience of it is from your brain.

  • Nociceptors (special neurons located all around your body), send "raw data" back to your brain, then the brain decides whether it needs to produce a painful stimulus. This decision is based on many factors occurring at the time e.g. your enviroment, past experience, sights, smells, perception of danger, just to name a few. 

  • Weighing all this up your brain decides if there is a credible risk of danger and produces pain accordingly, often this may have no relation to tissue injury. Nerve impulses travel at formula one speed. So even if you stub your toe and feel it straight away, the impulse has been to your brain and back again.

  • Pain is a protective device. Tissue damage and pain often don't relate, i.e. just because something hurts a lot, doesn't mean you have a lot of damage.

  • As pain persists over time your brain gets better at producing pain.

  • Pain depends on how much danger your brain thinks you are in, not how much you really are.

If you are experiencing pain and would like to discuss your symptoms further, call or schedule an appointment with one of our friendly osteopaths. 

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