Anatomy And Physiology

Pain Neuropathy Nerves Diabetes Injury

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Pain is a communication tool. Sometimes the tool gets overloaded or broken. Imagine a drill that won't shut off. Or, one that won't turn on.

The anatomy of pain is like a Public Announcement system (PA system). The thing to be communicated starts at the entry or start point, then it travels along a surface electronically (nerve cells, wires or radio waves, etc.) to it's destination (the brain, or speakers at the other end), to finally be received and responded to (perception of pain) at the end or destination.

Pain tells us that something is wrong or that something needs to be fixed.

Here's a general description of how pain works: We have nerve cells that connect in a 'string' or fiber type. There are little gaps between them. Communication is passed from one to the other until it reaches the main conduit (spinal cord) that transmits this information to the brain.


-An example: In neuropathy (either from injury or diabetes), the nerve cells get deprived of either oxygen or nutrients or both. The result is that they shrink in order to preserve themselves. So pain, in neuropathy, is often caused by those electrical impulses or communications having to jump over a wider span of space between the nerve cells. There are many types or expressions of neuropathy which relate to what is causing the condition in the first place.

Eventually, if the problem is not treated early enough, those nerve cells begin to die. That's when we're in trouble. It's also when we begin to lose body parts by amputation.

-An example: We touch a hot stove and are instantly informed that the experience is painful. Thank goodness this information is conveyed fast enough for our body to react by quickly withdrawing the hand!

-An example: The amount, location or level of pain gives us vital information about what may be causing the pain. Re-occurring ear aches that also make the jaw hurt and tooth sensitivity tells us we have a bad tooth (usually the wisdom tooth or the molar in front of it). Further investigation by a dentist will reveal if it's an exposed nerve, or if it's impacted, etc.


Here's some web-sites that may explain how pain works:

1. This one is a bit technical but has great visual aids:

2. This one talks about how the nerve cells get starved and then die (in an indirect manner):

3. Scroll down to the heading that says HOW PAIN WORKS. This is a nice description:

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