Painful joints human anatomy concept with the body as a group of circular panels of sore areas as a pain and injury or arthritis illness symbol for health care and medical symptoms due to aging or sports and work injury.

Pain

HEALTH INFORMATION

Understanding how pain is processed in the brain

WHAT WE KNOW

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”. Acute pain is the pain that says you’ve been hurt. It is often temporary and begins suddenly, often as a result of injury or inflammation. Sensory inputs from damaged tissue project via specific nerve fibres (nociceptors) to the brain, which generates a perception of pain – the quality of which depends on the tissue of origin. Reflex responses to a painful stimulus serve to protect the body from further damage: superficial pain – that originating in the skin – leads to withdrawal of the body part from the stimulus, whereas deep pain – that originating in muscle, for example – leads to protective responses that limit further damage to the injured body part.

Pain might be mild and last just a moment, or it might be severe and last for weeks or months. As the body repairs the damage the nociceptive messages cease, encouraging use of the injured or inflamed body part once again. It is important to get moving again as over-protection of an injury or under-use of a limb may lead to further complications.

Things that will help pain to feel better include making changes to exercise, where appropriate – so if running has caused an injury, switch to cycling or swimming; treat the injury with therapy, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or massage therapy; or try meditation or deep relaxation techniques that aim to relax each part of your body or help manage pain.

In most cases, pain does not last longer than three months, and it disappears when the underlying cause of pain has been treated or has healed. Unrelieved pain, however, might lead to chronic pain. Chronic pain is considered to be pain that lasts for three months past the point of injury, and it is now generally accepted that changes in the brain are responsible for maintaining the pain long after the nociceptive signals of tissue damage have stopped.

OUR LATEST RESEARCH

SLEEPain clinical trial

In this randomised controlled trial we are investigating whether a simple sleep intervention can not only improve sleep quality of patients with acute low back pain but also lead to reduced pain and disability.

RESOLVE clinical trial

Our NHMRC funded randomised controlled trial for chronic low back pain focuses on normalising sensation from the back.

PREVENT clinical trial

This NHMRC funded randomised controlled study aims to prevent people with acute low back pain developing chronic low back pain using an optimised pain education approach. In this intervention a specially trained pain clinician provides two one-hour consultations with a patient with acute low back pain to discuss their condition.

The effects of tonic muscle pain on the sympathetic and somatic motor systems

Chronic pain, defined as pain lasting for >3 months, typically develops from injuries to deep tissues such as muscle, yet little is known about how long-lasting pain affects a person’s blood pressure or capacity to control their muscles. This project assesses the effects of tonic muscle pain on sympathetic nerve activity and stretch sensitivity of muscle spindles.

What else is happening in Pain research at NeuRA?

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