The ability to use the mind to control pain pathways is completely separate to the physical. Can you think of a time in your life when changing your mindset has minimized your perception of pain? To do this, you use a technique called cognitive self-regulation.
There are 2 pathways in the brain that contribute to the pain sensation we feel.
Pathway 1: Signals are sent via nerves to describe the intensity of painful stimuli.
Pathway 2: Effects of cognitive regulation on pain perception, and involves increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens
Theories of pain perception
specific pain receptors transmit signals to a “pain center” in the brain that produces the perception of pain. E.g. soldiers may report little or no pain in relation to a serious wound in war time that would otherwise be excruciating.
pain signals are sent to the brain only when stimuli sum together to produce a specific combination or pattern.
Gate Control Theory
“top-down” brain influences on pain perception as well as the effects of other tactile stimuli (e.g. rubbing a banged knee) in appearing to reduce pain
Why is Pain so Complicated?
Pain has been reported by people for whom there is no physiological evidence for feeling pain.
Environmental factors and individual differences make pain a subjective experience that is difficult to assess.
Research on pain is limited by ethics restrictions that minimize animal subjects’ pain and suffering, and not many humans volunteer for pain studies.
The assessment of pain levels is a very individual thing, each of us has a different pain threshold. The important thing to remember is, whatever our pain threshold, our mind has the ability to overtake the physical, if we work with it and let it.