Why Do We Feel Pain?

Everyone knows that when we accidentally touch something hot we feel a burning sensation or when we stub our toe against any object we feel a sharp pain. But have you ever wondered why do we feel pain?

Before digging into this topic, it’s important to have basic knowledge about our nervous system.

Nervous System

Our nervous system is a combination of two components namely the

  • CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (CNS) – Brain and spinal cord.
  • PERIPHERAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (PNS) – Sensory and Motor nerve.

Reflex Action

You may have heard of the term “reflex action”. Well, let’s try to understand the underlying concept a little bit.

What are Neurotransmitters?

When pain receptors detect a stimulus (change in temperature, pressure etc.), they release chemical messengers within the cell to communicate with the next nerve cell. These chemical messengers are called neurotransmitters.

These messengers send a signal to the spinal cord and then to the brain.

Once the brain receives the message it processes the message and sends out the message through the motor neuron to the part of the body which is in danger and as a result, our body takes immediate action by cutting contact with the stimulus. This is called reflex action.

Examples of Reflex Action

There are many examples of reflex action in our day to day life.

  • We pull back our hand immediately whenever we accidentally touch something hot
  • We try to kill the mosquito by slapping where it is biting.

When we touch something hot, the signal is sent to our brain and as our brain recognizes the object to be something that is harmful and can cause damage to us, it immediately signals our hand to move away from the hot object.

All of this happens within the span of less than a second!

Why do we feel pain?

Now that we know how our body and brain act against stimuli to protect, let’s try to understand what makes us feel pain. First of all, what is pain?

What is Pain?

Pain is an unpleasant experience because of actual or potential tissue damage.

Now it might sound absurd, but do you know our brain is the one responsible for the pain we feel and we should be thankful that we can feel pain. But why??

Why Pain is good?

There are some people who don’t feel pain at all, this condition is called congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP). In this case, the PNS of a person isn’t able to function properly and thus fails to detect stimuli and send messages to the brain.

You might be assuming that it’s cool that you don’t have to feel pain but in reality, it’s harmful.

For example, a child with CIP can chew his/her fingers to the point it starts to bleed insanely. Such kids keep on bumping against objects getting cuts and bruises which sometimes lands them in critical situations.

A person with CIP often bites their tongue, they might get scalded or they might step on thorns without even realising. Due to their inability to feel pain, the brain does not signal them to stop and as a result, they keep harming their body unknowingly. In fact, there have been cases where people died because their body was not able to detect danger.

Our brain makes us feel pain in order to protect ourselves. Pain is a way through which our brain tells us that something is not right with our body.

I guess now you have understood why we feel pain and also why it is important.

Summary

Our nervous system consists of CNS and PNS. Although the spinal cord and brain take all the major decisions, it cannot work if it doesn’t receive information from our PNS.

Reflex action is a way for our body to respond against the stimulus and protects us from any further damage. A person suffering from CIP is insensitive to pain. Their PNS doesn’t function properly so they don’t have any reflex action and thus they often get in danger.

Pain is a crucial part of our body and life. We must feel pain in order to protect our bodies from any damage.

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