A very unscientific experiment.

Med school this week has been all about pain:

Pathways that send the message from the nociceptors (receptors that detect unpleasant stimuli like extreme temperature or mechanical force) to the brain where they can be interpreted as pain.

Pathways that come from the brain and interact with incoming signals and then can either enhance or decrease the signal going to the brain.

Effects of anticipation and expectation.

The placebo effect.

How opioids and other analgesics work.

The negative impact chronic pain can have on many areas of an individuals’ life.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Pain is not as simple as we may think and after a fantastic lecture on the psychology of pain it got me thinking about my own ideas of pain and how I deal with it.

I wouldn’t call myself a pill popper but whenever I get a headache I reach for the paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the kids feel unwell they ask for the calpol and I give it to them (although interestingly enough when I have a run out and use juice or something instead and call it medicine, it works just as well).

-I need to be clear that I am referring to pain only, not infection or fever. Just pain.-

But after the lecture today I wonder if I would be able to control pain by using my mind. The pain would still be there but perhaps I could distract myself from it or confront it and not let it produce anxiety.

There are many examples that support the idea that you should be able to distract yourself from the pain,

e.g. sports people and dancers who are injured during a match or performance and are able to carry on until the end and then when it is over they will feel the pain.

e.g. the fact that chronic pain is often worse at night, could it be partly down to the fact that there are less distractions?

I get headaches quite frequently and to be honest I’m not sure the pain killers I take do any good. So, headaches will be the subject of this experiment.

Next time I get a headache I will not use any painkillers and instead I will try and distract myself from the pain. I will report back on my findings in this very biased, non randomised, non controlled, non blinded and completely unscientific trial.

But knowing sods law (  which as everyone knows is a highly reliable and consistent scientific concept) I probably wont get another headache ever again….

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