Carlson and Birkett (2017) advance that information regarding touch, temperature, and painful stimuli travels via somatic nerves before entering the spinal cord. Sensory information from touch travels more expediently than the information about painful stimuli. Lilienfeld et al. (2011) advance that this distinction is because touch is meant to give information regarding the surroundings, while pain is meant to inform about injuries that need tending. The latter can generally wait, while the former is more imminently needed. Pain can manifest in different variations such as sharp, stabbing, throbbing, burning, and aching (Lilienfeld et al., 2011). Moore (as cited in Lilienfeld et al., 2011) advances that scientist believes people can control pain by controlling thoughts and emotions in reaction to the painful stimuli.
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A fascinating idea related to his concept is advanced by Melzack and Wall (1965) called the gate control model. According to this theory, pain can be blocked from consciousness, since neural mechanisms in the spinal cord function as a gate-keeper controlling the flow of sensory detection to the central nervous system. The gate control model explains that psychological states influence the pain level felt (Melzack & Wall, 1965). Ropero Pelez and Taniguchi (2016) elucidate that the gate control model suggests that the present stimulation experienced blocks the pain from consciousness. Eccleston and Crombez (1999) advance that pain requires attention and distraction is a means of disrupting pain sensations. The author has had experience with feeling pain from a headache or body ache, only to be so absorbed at his clinic that he forgot all about the pain.
Hoffman and Patterson (2005) advance an interesting study where the pain of burn victims undergoing wound care was diminished by placing them into a virtual environment of snowmen and igloos! This supports the idea that vision and body senses interact to diminish painful experiences. However, the opposite is also true, if one perseverates on catastrophic events or repeats that he or she will not be able to bear the painful experience, the floodgates of distress can inundate the person.
One element to consider is that since the brain controls activity in the spinal cord, pain can be modulated, nevertheless, that can be the outcome of the placebo effect. Lilienfeld et al. (2011) advance research which indicates that pain activity via the spinal cord is sharply reduced when patients were told that the placebo cream that was being applied would ameliorate pain. Potentially, placebos may be responsible for activating the bodys own natural endorphins to reduce pain. More research on this interesting subject is needed.
Carlson, N. R., & Birkett, M. A. (2017). Physiology of Behavior, 12th Edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson.
Eccleston, C., & Crombez, G. (1999). Pain demands attention: A cognitiveaffective model of the interruptive function of pain. Psychological bulletin, 125(3), 356.
Hoffman, H., & Patterson, D. (2005). Virtual reality pain distraction. American Pain Society Bulletin, 15(2), 1-6.
Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S.J., Namy, L.L., Woolf, N.J. (2011). Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Boston: Allyn & Bacon Publishing.
Melzack, R., & Wall, P. D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: a new theory. Science, 150(3699), 971-979.
Ropero Pelez, F. J., & Taniguchi, S. (2016). The gate theory of pain revisited: modeling different pain conditions with a parsimonious neurocomputational model. Neural plasticity, 2016.