Why does it hurt? Pain explained

You may be visiting this blog post because you're in pain and want to understand more about it, or because your health care professional has discussed pain with you and you want to further your understanding. This blog post will break down what pain is, what influences it and what you can do about it in a way that hopefully you, the person in pain, can understand.

What is pain?

Pain is a protector of the body. An alarm system of sorts.

Think of when you touch something hot, it hurts, so you withdraw your hand away from it and learn not to touch it again. Pain protects you by changing your behaviour so you can avoid injury or further injury, allowing the body to heal in the meantime. This is pain's function, but most of us incorrectly think that pain is equal to tissue damage.

Infact, pain is NOT an accurate measure of tissue damage. Sometimes, pain is too protective, and gives us unnecessary warning signals.

For example - often people experience pain in a limb after amputation - this is called phantom limb pain e.g. feeling the sensation of a muscle that is no longer there, cramping.

So we used to think that pain worked like this: