Pain

English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...
English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t have much, thankfully, but while I’ve been thinking about it, worrying about it, etc., I decided to figure out what it was.  I looked up how pain works and how painkillers work.  Fascinating stuff. Pain is not very well understood actually.  And everyone experiences it differently.  Different people have different pain tolerance and that can change depending on age, type of injury, etc.  In fact, most pain is really more than one pain signal.  Which is kind of cool.  Right now, when I have pain, it actually feels kind of burny-itchy.  Itching is a closely related signal to pain.  Some people feel pain as itching and vice versa.

Painkillers are also fascinating.  As I mentioned, I have been prescribed a bevy of narcotics to deal with my pain, but they mostly make me sick.  So I’ve been relying on plain old Tylenol when I can.  FYI, narcotic painkillers work on the receptors in the brain while things like Tylenol work at the pain site itself.  Signals for pain go back and forth from site to brain and back.  It’s a weird sort of communication where the site says, “Hey I’m in pain!” and the brain says, “Yes you are” or “No you’re really not.”  I’m simplifying, of course. I think the weirdest thing I learned about pain is that there’s a kind of logic gate that determines how intense the pain is that you feel.  It’s not that different from the circuits I build occasionally.

Because pain is a brain thing, you can distract yourself from pain that isn’t too bad, which is what I think i’ve been doing.  At night is when it kicks into high gear and there’s nothing to distract me, and that’s when I’ve resorted to my narcotic solutions, though at half the dosing level, which seems to keep the nausea at bay.

There is likely more pain in my future, but I think the worst is past, and it’s fascinating to know how it all works.  Yes, even when I’m injured, I’m a nerd.