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Understanding Pain

Understanding Pain

It’s commonly believed that the brain receives pain signals directly from injured tissue resulting in a painful experience. That is not true!

How does pain work

How does pain work?

The nerves in our body simply provide the brain with information that an event has occurred and our brain interprets that information, along with many other factors before initiating a response, which may or may not be painful.

Pain can be compared to a fire alarm, used to warn us of danger. This warning system is beneficial in the event of a real fire or an injury that causes actual tissue damage. It triggers us to act immediately to preserve life and prevent further damage.

Pain Alarm

However, warning systems can be unhelpful, like when you burn toast and it sets off the fire alarm. In many ways chronic or persistent pain can also be considered a false alarm. Typically, the tissue damage caused by an initial injury resolves, however the brain continues to feel threatened and triggers the pain alarm. In this case the body systems that were woken up to contribute to pain don’t go ‘back to sleep’. You won’t be able to see this on a scan, but it doesn’t mean it’s all in your head. It just means that other factors impacting on the nervous system need to be considered in order to teach the brain that it should no longer feel threatened.

Factors that may contribute to persistent pain:


  • Tissue Health
  • Physical Health
  • Genetics
  • Medications
  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Physical Activity


  • Emotions
  • Attitude
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Coping Skills
  • Sadness


  • Support (or lack of) from Friends and Family
  • Financial Status
  • Education
  • Culture

Recognising the most significant factors contributing to your pain and dealing with them is essential in easing your pain. Your physio can assist with this.

You may find these evidence-based resources beneficial:

Pain Education

Pain Health

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