#8 - The gate control of the painSep 16, 2021
The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as "An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage."
Most of us think that the amount of pain we experience is related to the degree of bodily damage or injury: the more injury or tissue damage, the higher the pain level. Per definition, the pain can also originate from a potential or anticipated origin. It is also a personal, unique, emotional experience. The emotions related to pain are processed by the brain, as is the pain itself.
How one can feel or perceive pain requires two elements. First is the local component – a trigger that activates a pain receptor – an injury or sensation, actual or potential – a local marker that sends a signal to the brain. Second is the brain's perception of this pain or how the brain processes this pain signal. When the brain receives this local pain signal, it can control the pain experience – it can turn the volume of pain up or down.
The research about this brain control started in the 1960s and is called the "gate control theory of pain." The pain signal is sent from a local area via the spinal cord's nerves to the brain. The brain, as it receives the pain signals, can reduce or increase these signals. Think of an imaginary gate between the brain and the spinal cord. The brain controls the entrance and able to adjust the flow. Some signals always pass through. The brain can widen the passage or make it narrower – allowing more or less pain signals to pass through.
The pain gate control center is located in the brain's areas responsible for processing thoughts and emotions.
The brain manages the experience of pain, the severity, and coping mechanisms using the thoughts and emotions. The brain analyzes the actual sensation in the context of the thoughts, feelings, anticipation, expectation, stress, memories, and past pain experiences.
The gate control of the pain explains that our brain has a degree of conscious control of the pain experience. The thoughts and emotions can either open the pain gait to let more pain in, or close it, reducing pain amount. Emotional and thought control can be learned and practiced, leading to improved pain experience.
See last week blog post #7 - https://www.rheumcoach.com/blog/7
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