Pain. Burning pain. Stabbing Pain. Aching pain. Whatever the pain, it is usually a very common symptom of a chronic illness. In fact, I am in pain as I am writing this right now. Why do some people seem to experience extremely high levels of pain, while others do not? What if I told you that there are some people out there who cannot even experience pain. The whole concept of pain is a pretty crazy idea.
Acute pain, the type that most people experience, is a perception from your body. This is meant to protect you from hurting yourself without knowing it. We all know how it feels to have been accidently burnt by the stove, a curling iron, or just something hot. You know what I’m talking about when your affected body part instantly springs back before you can even process it. This reaction to pain is so fast, that the message is not even sent to the brain to process, but the brain stem. That is why we react before we can even process what has happened. Pain is meant to protect us.
TrpV1 is the nerve receptor responsible for this protective action. However, scientists and researchers cannot find any trace of it when looking into chronic pain. Theodore Price, a notable pain researcher who works for the University of Texas at Dallas remarks that, “Many scientists believe that chronic pain occurs when the nervous system itself gets broken.” He has explained that our cells, specifically nerve cells, have a pain memory. Hence why we don’t go around touching hot stoves. In the case of chronic pain though, research suggests that the broken nervous system is remembering a faulty way of receiving pain. This is what is creating the chronic pain cycle.
On the complete other side of the spectrum, there is actually a rare condition that causes people to not feel pain. It is called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP). As glorious as this may sound, children with the condition can end up literally poking their eyes out. As in Ashlyn Blocker’s case, scratching her cornea, biting her fingers, and chewing on her tongue. She never had her nervous system able to tell her brain, “Don’t do this!” CIP is a form of peripheral neuropathy. The gene SCN9A is mutated and does not form a specific sodium channel that allows for cells to make and get electrical signals. Just like chronic pain, CIP does not seem like a walk in the park to me.
Are these two connected in any way? As far as I can tell, no one is researching it. What if the research from both could be used to help each other out? If we know what is causing CIP, could we not make some form of a medicine for chronic pain patients? In the opposite, using what we know on chronic pain, could we not use that to help restore a pain system in people with CIP? I think scientists should start to research this possibility. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained, that has yet to be found.
Thank you for reading this article today. I hope you were able to learn more about the aspects behind pain in general. What are your thoughts on focusing research to benefit both people with chronic pain and CIP? Please subscribe for more great content and I’ll see you next time, my Un-imaginables!
“Congenital Insensitivity to Pain – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/congenital-insensitivity-to-pain#genes.
Heckert, Justin. “The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/magazine/ashlyn-blocker-feels-no-pain.html.
Weir, Kirsten. “Owww! The Science of Pain.” Science News for Students, 12 May 2017, http://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/owww-science-pain.
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