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Pain and the brain

Your spinal cord has special 'gates' that interfere with pain messages from your nerves. These 'gates' can reduce or increase the strength of the pain signal. They may block or deflect messages so the pain signal that reaches the brain is slightly altered.

Once the pain signal gets to the brain, it's further changed by even more complex systems.

The pain message can be affected by:

  • how much you concentrate on the pain
  • enjoyable activities, which can take your mind off the pain and make it more manageable
  • unhappy feelings, anxieties or depression, which can worsen pain
  • drugs that affect your brain, chemically reducing the impact of pain.

Learning to live with short-term pain is an important part of growing up. Our childhood experiences of pain, and the way we were taught to cope with it, may strongly influence how we cope with it as adults.


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