The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage” (Merskey and Bogduk 1994). This definition implicitly and explicitly indicates that pain is a subjective experience involving biological, psychological, and social processes.
Pain signals arising in the periphery are transmitted via the spinal column to multiple brain areas. The signals are relayed to the thalamus and then three specific areas within the brain: somatosensory cortex, which localizes the physical sensations; the limbic system, which processes the emotional responses to physical stimuli; and the frontal cortex, which processes the context and meaning of the nociception. The involvement of these multiple structures accounts for the perception of pain as a combination of sensation, emotional arousal, and conscious thought. This complex...
References and Readings
- Gracely, R. H. (1999). Studies of pain in human subjects. In P. D. Wall & R. Melzack (Eds.), Textbook of pain (4th ed., pp. 385–407). Edinburgh: Churchill-Livingstone.Google Scholar
- Merskey, H., & Bogduk, N. (Eds.). (1994). Classification of chronic pain: Descriptions of chronic pain syndromes and definitions of pain terms (2nd ed.). Seattle: IASP Press.Google Scholar