The Science Behind Pain: How Nerves Transmit Signals

Putting a Spotlight on Basic Pain Processes

With countless people in the UK experiencing all kinds of pain each and every day, it is important to understand the basics about how pain is transmitted. As a Pain Doctor will explain to their patients:
If for example, we prick our finger on a sharp object, this generates tissue damage, which in turn, is recorded by our skin’s nociceptors (microscopic pain receptors). Of note, every pain receptor forms one end of a neurone (nerve cell). Whereas the other end is connected to the spinal cord by a long axon (nerve fibre). Therefore, if a pain receptor is reactive in this way, it transmits an electrical signal up the nerve fibre.

The nerve fibre is packaged with countless other nerve fibres to configure a peripheral nerve. Therefore, the electrical signal shoots up the nerve cell within the peripheral nerve to arrive at the spinal cord in your neck. Within the dorsal horn (a region in the spinal cord), these electrical signals are sent from one nerve cell to another along synapses (junctions), via neurotransmitters (chemical messengers). And the signals are sent up your spinal cord to your brain.

Once the signals arrive in your brain, they move into a sorting station (known as the thalamus). This station then relays the signals on to other parts of the brain. For example, signals are transmitted to a region of the brain which is responsible for physical sensation (the somatosensory cortex). Indeed, its primary function is to discover sensory information from your body in regard to pain, temperature, proprioception, touch and texture.

So How Does Our Brain Influence Our Feelings of Pain?

Pain Specialists help patients understand what is happening to their bodies. Therefore, whenever someone books an in-person or online appointment with a Pain Doctor for:

•Nociceptive pain (which usually comes about through tissue injury)
•Inflammatory Pain (an anomalous inflammation caused by an inappropriate reaction by our body’s immune system)
•Neuropathic Pain (pain generated by nerve irritation), or
•Functional Pain (pain which does not have an obvious origin, but nonetheless can generate pain),
the Pain Consultant will explain that our brain influences our pain experience according to various different factors. These comprise:
• Our psychological and emotional outlook
• Our memories of past pain
• The way we were brought up
• Our expectations of, and our attitude towards our pain
• Our values and beliefs
• Our sex and age
• Cultural and social influences [1]




My Doc (2023). “Pain and how you sense it.” we feel pain, such,and the pain is perceived.