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Sharp Health News

How pain works (infographic)

March 8, 2018

Think of your nerves as a giant alarm system. They line your body from head to toe, working with your brain and spinal cord to sound off when things go wrong. Is your coffee too hot? Is your shower too cold? Or, more seriously, is it time to get medical attention? We asked Dr. Jeremy Hogan, a neurologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, to share the intricacies of how your body registers pain.

How pain works (infographic). Your body knows the difference between simple touch and touch that causes pain. And more amazingly, it knows exactly what to do about it. Your sense of touch. The nervous system is your body's sensory command center. It registers sensations and interprets them - then puts a reaction into action. 1. Nerves. These bundles of fibers receive feeling and send an alert to the brain via the spinal cord. 2. The spinal cord. This middle manager makes split decisions, like triggering reflexes, while moving the message to the brain. 3. The brain. As the body's command center, the brain interprets the feeling, associates an emotion, directs the body to respond and, if needed, tells it to heal. Types of pain. Whether caused by a pinprick or a chronic illness, pain comes in many different forms. These are the three most common categories and their causes. Nocicptive. Detected by nerves in your body's soft tissue, such as muscles or skin. Examples: Headaches. Pelvic pain. Arthritis. Injury-related pain. Neuropathic. Caused by malfunctioning nerves, it's described as sharp, stabbing or shooting. Examples: Phantom limb pain. Sciatica. Carpal tunnel syndrome. Shingles. Psychogenic. Caused by nerve pathways from a psychological disorder, such as deperession or anxiety. Examples: Stomach pain. Muscle aches. Body pains. Battle of the sexes. Who has a higher threshold for pain? According to some research, it's men. However, women may be wired to feel pain more intensely because they: Have more pain receptors in their skin. Produce a protein that intensifies pain. Produce a protein that dulls painkillers. From the expert: The nervous system is an incredible thing. It's always working to connect you to your environment through your senses, and helps keep you safe from harm. - Dr. Jeremy Hogan, a neurologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

View the printable version of this infographic.

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