If you’re one of the 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can feel. But did you know…
- Pain is Still a Mystery – The American Academy of Pain Medicine defines pain as “an unpleasant sensation and emotional response to that sensation.” Scientifically speaking, pain is felt when electrical signals are sent from nerve endings to your brain, which in turn can release painkillers called endorphins and generate reactions that range from instant and physical to long-term and emotional. Some pain is the result of an obvious injury. Other times, pain results from damaged nerves that are harder to define. Pain is a complex mixture of emotions, culture, experience, spirit and sensation that scientists are still struggling to fully understand.
- Pain Shrinks Your Brain – Pain can prevent a person from completing routine activities and cause incredible irritability that may seem irrational to most. But that’s not all. The brains of people with chronic backaches are as much as 11 percent smaller than those of non-sufferers, scientists reported in 2004. Researchers still aren’t sure why. They speculate that the neurons become overactive or tired and the stress of living with pain is just too much.
- Women Feel More Pain – A man who has witnessed natural childbirth might think that women can tolerate just about anything. In fact, women have more nerve receptors than men, so it actually hurts more. For example, women have 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin, whereas men average just 17. In a 2005 study, women were found to report more pain throughout their lifetimes and, compared with men, they feel pain in more areas of the body and for longer durations.
- Animals Offer Insight – Animal research could offer clues to eventually further understand and even relieve human pain. A 2008 study revealed that the naked mole rat (a hairless, nearly blind subterranean creature) feels neither the pain of acid nor the sting of chili peppers. If researchers can determine why, it could lead to new painkilling therapies in humans. In 2006, scientists found a pathway for the transmission of chronic pain in rats that they hope will translate into better understanding of human chronic pain.