Explain Pain Section 2: The Alarm System

This is a summary of section 2 of “Explain Pain” by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley. Alarm Signals Our body’s alarm system alerts us to danger or potential danger. This alarm system is composed of sensors throughout the body, the eyes, nose, and ears. It is these sensors that are our first line of defense against harm. If one sensor fails the others take over. Most of these sensors are located in the brain and respond to various stimuli. Some to mechanical movement, some to temperature change; the sensors in the brain particularly respond to chemical activity. What is important to know with sensors is that they have a very short life expectancy of a few days. This cycling means our body’s sensitivity is constantly changing. It is with these life cycles that there is hope for those with chronic pain. Moreover, the rate at which sensors are made is normally stable but can change very quickly in regards to a particular stimulus. So if we take for example one with persistent pain, the rate at which pain sensitivity occurs can be changed. Nociception We lack pain receptors in our bodies. Instead, the various tissues have special neurons that respond to different stimuli. These receptors are called nociceptors, which translates into “danger receptors.” Nociception is occurring all the time, but only sometimes will it end in pain. Nociception is neither necessary nor sufficient for pain. The sensors correspond to particular neurons. In order for these neurons to become excited and

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