How Do We Feel Pain?
Pain is universa—everyone feels pain at some point in life. The level of pain they feel can vary, of course, from the severe pain of a broken bone to the minor insult of a paper cut. Pain can be the result of a wound, overuse injury, muscle spasms, or a long-term illness.
What is Pain?
Pain is a warning that something is wrong. More specifically, pain is the body’s way of telling the brain that something has gone awry, and that the brain needs to do something about it. In most cases, pain is manageable and goes away when the body has healed from whatever caused the pain. At other times, pain lingers for months or years, and becomes a significant burden.
Doctors describe pain as being either acute or chronic. Acute pain comes on quickly and disappears within a couple of days to a few weeks. Chronic pain lasts much longer; doctors typically describe chronic pain as lasting three months or longer. Pain can be constant or intermittent, mild or severe, and tolerable or intolerable.
How Do We Feel Pain?
Pain is ultimately a response in our nervous system. The brain is part of the nervous system, which also includes the spinal cord and nerves. The brain sends out signals through the spinal cord and nerves, and these signals tell the muscles what to do.
The nervous system is a complex communication network that is involved in everything the body does, from controlling our muscles to sensing heat and cold. The brain, spinal cord, and nerves are the main components of the nervous system, and they all work together. To make a muscle move, for example, the brain sends messages down the spinal cord, which then passes the messages through the network of nerves controlling that muscle.
The nerves can also send messages back up the spinal cord to tell the brain about various things happening throughout the body. These messages tell the brain that something is warm or cold, soft or hard, and so on. The nerves can also send pain signals when the body suffers some sort of harm.
Injured cells also release chemicals that promote inflammation at the injury site. One of these chemicals is bradykinin; it binds with pain receptors in the nervous system to cause pain. Bradykinin can also cause pain hypersensitivity by speeding up the pain messages in the nervous system.
Pain messages—and pain itself—typically go away on their own, when the body has healed from whatever caused the pain in the first place. The body does not always heal completely or properly, though, and sometimes the healing process creates too much scar tissue that presses against a nerve to cause pain. Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, can cause pain signals to continue for years. Sometimes the pain responses continue to fire, even after the injury has healed. While the reasons for pain may change, the level of pain may remain.
Laser Therapy Treats Pain & the Underlying Problem Causing Pain
Laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBMT), can relieve acute pain to help patients feel better fast. This approach to treatment can also help the body heal faster to make the pain go away sooner. Laser therapy accomplishes these goals in very specific ways.
Relieves pain at the source
PBMT reduces pain by decreasing bradykinin. It also releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers, and enkephalins that produce an analgesic effect. The wavelengths of light used in laser therapy also have pain-blocking effects on certain nerve fibers, so pain messages never reach the brain.
Injuries and illnesses can damage nerves, which disrupts the nerves’ communication with the brain. Signs of nerve damage include sharp pain, numbness or tingling, sensitivity to touch, and muscle weakness in the affected part of the body. Laser therapy can help the body repair the nerves and even generate new nerves.
Accelerates tissue repair and cell growth
Laser therapy uses specific wavelengths of light that penetrate the skin to reach tissues and cells deeper within the body. At these wavelengths, the light excites the mitochondria, commonly known as the “powerhouse of the cells.” Mitochondria help body cells convert food into energy that the cells use to function, and to heal. Stimulating the mitochondria in this way helps tendons, ligaments, nerves, and muscles repair themselves faster.
Trigger and acupuncture points
Acupuncture works by inserting very fine needles into specific places in the skin can close off or block nerve impulses that transmit pain messages to the brain. Acupuncture releases tightly contracted muscle tissue by stimulating trigger points, which causes sore muscles to contract and then relax. Laser therapy can have the same effect on these painful trigger points without the discomfort of needles.
Speeds the healing of wounds
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is the primary structural component of connective tissue, such as cartilage and skin. Collagen also plays a role in every phase of healing by acting as a scaffold for new tissue. Laser light stimulates the body’s production of collagen to promote and support healing in open wounds and burns.
PBMT also promotes the formation of new capillaries in damaged tissue. More capillaries mean better blood flow to the area, which helps wounds close quickly and speeds up the healing process.
Reduces the formation of scar tissue
Laser therapy reduces the formation of scar tissue resulting from repetitive motion injuries, cuts and scratches, surgery, burns, or other injuries, so there is less scar tissue pressing against the nerve.
Activates stem cells
Stem cells have the unique ability to turn into any other type of body cell, so they can help the body regenerate itself. Photobiomodulation helps activate the body’s stem cells to promote healing.
While pain happens to everyone, it does not have to prevent you from enjoying life—laser therapy can help you overcome pain. For more information about the benefits of laser therapy for pain, consult with a PBMT provider.