Pain = Sensations, Feeling and Emotions
Humans in pain cry, scream, shout, moan, hold their injured arm close to
their body, crouch, fall to the ground, writhe in pain, and plead for help. The
injured patient in the emergency room is fearful one moment and angry the next;
give me morphine! The emotional display attracts onlookers to rush and help or
sometimes to flee. Pain, fear and anger are closely linked. Humans and
other animals are fearful of any situation that might cause pain. We do not want
to repeat painful experiences. A painful experience is remembered vividly and,
like fear, is strongly aversive. Pain is usually considered to be a sensory
experience but also belongs to emotions and feelings. The
prescription of pain-reducing drugs and use of anesthetics for trauma and
surgery are the physician’s main contribution to reducing the suffering of
The emotional part of pain is the visible behavior associated with pain,
The feeling states called “pain” are varied and always unpleasant. Pain is a
monitor image of a dysfunctional body state. The apparent purpose of pain is to
flood consciousness with a pervasive dysphoria that blocks other activities.
Animals who stop everything when they are sick and injured survive better than
animals who ignore their dysfunctional body.
Pain is one of the main features of consciousness and is widely distributed
in the animal world. All mammals experience pain and there is no reason to
believe that other animals experience pain more or less than we do. There is
every reason to believe that it is the same pain and that pain has survival
value. Most humans experience pain vividly and the relief of pain is one of the
most important functions of physicians.
Descriptions of pain are varied and not always clear. The physician will want
the patient to qualify their pain experience with descriptions such as "sharp,
aching, burning, shooting, crampy…" since different qualities of pain point to
different causes. An overweight 60-year-old patient who complains of "crushing
pain" in his or her chest, is sweating and is afraid of dying is almost certainly
is having a heart attack.
If you have a toothache, the pain develops over several hours in a remarkable
manner. A fully developed toothache can completely disable. The most common
cause of a toothache is a little infection at the tip of the tooth root. The
pain signal is sent along a hair-sized nerve from a tiny area of inflammation.
The pain seems to enlarge as it develops and instead of remaining localized
to a small area around the tooth, the pain will spread to involve the whole side
of the face, temple, jaw, and will often extend into the neck. The pain may
throb since the tiny nerve is adjacent to an arteriole that expands and
contracts. This tiny motion is felt as a giant throb. The amplification of a
tiny event into a gigantic experience is typical of pain. The spread of pain
sensations from a localized source to a generalized area and sometimes a distant
area is also typical of pain.