The ins and outs of pain by Jackie Manning, ARNP

We’ve all wondered why we feel pain. Why does it hurt so much when we slam our finger in the door or stub our toe? When we feel pain in response to an injury, it’s a signal that our body has been injured or damaged in some way. In a nutshell, it’s a signal to our brain that something isn’t right.


The path that recognizes and sends out a response to the injury is our nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of our brain and our spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes our sensory and motor nerves that send our brain information about the happenings in the environment via the spinal cord. Our brain then sends information back to our nerves. This whole process helps us to perform actions in response to the injury.


It’s important to remember that the response to pain isn’t the same for everyone. What may be painful to one person, could be only slightly uncomfortable to another. This is mainly due to the fact, that pain messages pass through the emotional and thinking regions of our brain. Therefore, each person’s pain is shaped not just by the physical damage or sensation, but by psychological, emotional, and social factors. Built into this system, are memories of past painful experiences, genetics, long-term health problems, coping strategies, and our attitude toward pain—each part influencing how we ultimately feel pain.


Pain can be broken down into two categories.

Acute pain is defined as a severe or sudden pain that resolves within an expected amount of time. This type of pain may be felt after an injury, illness, or surgery. Post-injury, sensory nerves respond by sending messages to the spinal cord, that something is not right. The spinal cord then delivers the message to the brain, which has the job of deciding how bad the injury is and what to do next. A massive database stores every similar incident in our lives and attempts to recall similar circumstances. Your brain then sorts through endless possible responses.

Chronic pain receptors continue to fire after the injury for three months or more. Chronic pain is caused by a disease or condition that continuously causes damage. A good example of chronic pain is arthritis. With arthritis, the joint is in a constant state of disrepair, which causes pain signals to travel to the brain with little to no down time. In cases such as this, it’s difficult to determine the cause of the chronic pain, which is why the condition is difficult to treat.


At Strive, we look at each person as an individual and determine a treatment plan that addresses emotional, cognitive, and physical ways of being, to design a customized treatment plan just right for you.