Pain Centre

Updated 04 June 2015

The importance of feeling pain

Why is it important to feel pain?


Pain plays an important role in the lives of humans. It presumably serves to protect us from harm by making us associate certain harmful actions with a sensation of pain. And to alert us to diseases or conditions which we may have.

Pain also produces an emotional reaction, not just a physical one. Some pain can be caused by grief or depression, but are not easy to measure or to classify.

Then again, the absence of pain can encourage certain other actions. You are more likely to pick up the plate that is not piping hot than the one that is. You might have to do a quick touch test in order to tell the difference.

Everyone experiences pain at certain times in their lives.

Read: What is pain?

How the body registers pain?

The body is incredibly efficient at registering messages of pain, and extremely quick in getting you to perform an appropriate action in order to lessen the pain sensation. Touch an extremely hot object, for instance, and the impulse or message goes from the nerves in your fingertips, along your spinal cord to your brain. It almost instantly, within a fraction of a second, sends back the message to you to remove your finger immediately from the source of the heat.

Your nervous system consists of two parts: the central nervous system, which consists of your spinal cord and your brain, and the sensory or motor nerves, which form the so-called peripheral nervous system. The pain signal is sent to the thalamus, from where it is sent to the limbic system in order to interpret the pain. Is it a stabbing feeling? Is it a burn? Is it a fracture?

Read: How do you control pain?

But it’s not that simple, as many things such as your state of mind, your state of health, your age, experiences you have had in the past and your expectations can all influence how severely you experience the pain.

A surge of adrenaline through your system at the time of an injury can make you realise only a while after an accident that you have injured yourself. Adrenaline functions a bit like a built-in painkiller. But it is, alas temporary.

The two most common kinds of pain are chronic pain and acute pain.

Read more:

How to Ease the pain?
The alphabet of pain
The physiology of pain

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