Put simply, pain is the built-in alarm that informs you something is wrong!
Pain is your body’s way of sending a warning to your brain. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of your body. Pain travels along these nerve pathways as electrical signals to your brain for interpretation.
Receptor nerve cells in and beneath your skin sense heat, cold, light, touch, pressure, and pain. You have thousands of these receptor cells. Most cells sense pain. When there is an injury to your body, these tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and then up to your brain.
In general, pain receptors are classified according to their location.
Receptors that respond to injury or noxious stimuli are termed nociceptors and are sensitive to thermal (heat), electrical, mechanical, chemical and painful stimuli. Each nociceptor is connected to a nerve that transmits an electrical impulse along its length towards the spinal cord and then, ultimately your brain.
It is your brain that informs you whether or not you are experiencing pain. Plus, your pain can plays tricks – especially when you suffer chronic pain.
Pain messages travel slower than other nerve stimulation
Nerves can also be categorised according to their diameter (width) and whether or not a myelin sheath is present.
Three types of nerves are concerned with the transmission of pain:
A beta fibres, which have a large diameter and are myelinated
A delta fibres, which have a small diameter and also have myelinated sheaths.
C fibres, which have small diameters and are non-myelinated (slowing their conduction rate) and are generally involved with the transmission of dull, aching sensations.
Nerves with a large diameter conduct impulses faster than those with a small diameter. The presence of a myelin sheath also speeds up the nerve conduction rate.
One method of easing your pain is to provide your nervous system with high speed “good feelings” such as rubbing your injured area. This is the same principle that a tens machine (pain relieving machines) utilises to provide pain relief.