Science & Technology in Action

7th Edition

Pain and Pain Management

Teva Ireland

We all know what pain is but we may not entirely appreciate its function. This lesson deals with the topic of pain and describes the role of nervous system in signalling pain to the brain. Different types of neuron and their functions are described, as is the biochemical mode by which pain signals are conducted.
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Lesson excerpt

While most of us regard pain as unpleasant and even undesirable we would find it almost impossible to live a normal life without it. The sensation of pain usually tells us that something is wrong. The pain of a broken arm or a sprained ankle is normally enough to stop us from continuing an activity that could cause further damage. A sting of a nettle causes sharp pain which is usually enough to make us very careful the next time we encounter nettles.

Describing Pain
The fact that we have so many words to describe pain shows how important it is in our lives; pain may be describe as sharp, acute, throbbing, burning, stinging, chronic, aching etc. In medical diagnosispain is a majorsymptom and is probably the most common reason why people attend doctors.

Sharp localised pain is associated with sprains, bone fracture, breakages and other serious tissue damage.

Aching pain (e.g. headache) is very common but its cause can be more difficult to find, especially when it is not clearly localised. It may be associated with infections such as colds or 'flu.

Pain Management
Pain management is a complex area. There are many causes of pain and so there are many different treatments for it.

In general it is not desirable to completely remove pain, even if that were possible. Pain can be considered to be part of the body's defence system. Pain management is concerned with easing the suffering of people and improving their quality of life.

True or False?

  1. It is better to treat the symptom of pain rather than the cause. true
  2. Pain that last for a long time is called acute pain. false
  3. Nerve impulses travel faster along myelinated axons. true
  4. Sensory neurons are unipolar. true
  5. The neurons of the central nervous system are all interneurons. true
  6. Dendrites conduct signals towards the cell body while axons conduct signals away from the cell body. true
  7. Pain management is mainly concerned with eliminating pain. false
  8. Everything we learn is communicated to the brain by neurons. true
  9. Nerves are bundles of neurons and may contain both sensory and motor neurons. true
  10. Schwann cells produce dendrites. false
  11. Nerve impulses travel about 1000 metres per second. false
  12. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released by the axon terminals of motor neurons; it triggers a motor response. true