What is pain? How is it that I feel a lot of pain when nothing seems to be wrong and nobody can see anything?
The year is 1979 (!) when many scientists come together to determine what pain is. There is something special going on. For a long time it was thought that pain went hand in hand with damage to the body. More damage should simply lead to more pain. But all studies pointed to something else. Nobody managed to show that pain and damage go hand in hand!
They did come across the following things:
- A lot of damage where people feel little pain.
- No damage where people feel a lot of pain.
- Nobody with the same problem indicated to feel pain in the same way.
The scientists came to the following conclusion:
Pain is an unpleasant, sensory and emotional experience that involves actual or potential tissue damage or is described in terms of such damage.
Not the most accessible sentence to read. If we dissect the sentence from the beginning, we read that pain is unpleasant. When we call something pain, we mean that it is unpleasant.
A sensory and emotional experience. These are two very broad terms. Sensory has to do with perception, so 'something' is perceived. Emotionally, pain always has to do with feeling. It has to be, because when something is unpleasant it has to do with emotion.
And then it comes. This is accompanied by actual or possible tissue damage. In short: there does not have to be any damage in the body to feel pain, just the possibility that there may be damage can lead to pain.
I myself explain it as follows. Pain is always real and differs per person and situation. How much pain we experience depends on many factors. Our previous pain experiences, our thoughts and beliefs, how we feel at that moment and all kinds of messages that are sent from the nerves to our brain.
The most important lesson is that we can influence our own pain. Because the amount of pain we experience is strongly related to how we feel, where our attention is, how we think about it and how we deal with pain. And we can influence all these things ourselves.