What Percentage of the Nervous System Feels Pain?
Only about 10% of our nervous system is set aside, in your spinal cord, for the perception of pain. The good thing about that is, if that were not the case, we would be feeling pain a lot more often than we do. However, your nervous system has a lot of jobs.
It has to decipher things like hot from cold. It has to be able to filter out noises and understand them and put them in your brain in a way that is understandable to you. You have to see things that your eyes perceive and then your brain then has to transmit them into messages. So there are a lot of things that your nervous system does besides the sensation of pain. That’s why a lot of people think that it’s more than that because when they have pain it’s noticeable. Typically it’s only 10% of what is perceivable.
Pain is one of those things that is an arbitrary thing because a lot of people have abilities to tolerate pain. Some people have low thresholds for tolerance. It just depends on the person and how their nervous system responds to the stimulus.
Why is it that some pain is delayed and some more immediate?
Your body is perceiving things all day long. For example, you could rake on Sunday and you could have done some damage to your muscle tissue at that time. However, your body had been pumping out adrenaline up to that point because you had been raking leaves, really hard all day Sunday. Your body had been pumping out adrenaline to help with the demands your body had been putting on it to get that hard work done.
Once the adrenaline system, the sympathetic nervous system, has had a chance to slow down, the parasympathetic nervous system starts to work. And then that’s when your body does an inventory of “how’s my body doing today?” Sometimes at that point, you’ll say, “oh here’s a pain” and your body will register it in your nervous system as pain and you will feel it. So it’s not always something that happens right away unless it’s a stimulus that is strong enough.
How does my body handle pain?
The biggest answer is this, a lot of times people do injure themselves and your body just handles it. Your body sends out white blood cells to fix the injury, it helps by sending out endorphins, it will send out hormones so that you don’t feel the pain. The injury is there, but you don’t necessarily feel it.
Sometimes the injury is just there, and your body is not able to heal it because you are not letting your body heal or you are doing something that is continually re-injuring it. Finally, it gets to the point where that stimulus is met, the action potential is met and then your body says, “ok, I can’t do this anymore, or I can’t cover this up naturally”, and then you feel the pain.
It really depends on how severe the injury is and how much your body can handle it. Some people who are very healthy don’t feel half of the injuries they have because their body heals it. The people who are unhealthier are the ones who feel every little thing, every misstep, every little slip or fall because their bodies are unhealthy to begin with so they can’t heal themselves. Then what winds up happening is a small thing like a misstep off a sidewalk can put them in bed for five days. People always ask, “why am I in pain? How did I do this?” You have to retrace your steps and figure out what you did to yourself and not do it again.
If the body has experienced a car accident or a major trauma, it’s enough of a stimulus for your body to recognize it as a pain and there is so much pain stimulus that your body cannot handle it at one time. So what will happen, and you’ve heard these stories of people who are in serious car accidents and they get out of the car, are seemingly fine and then once the adrenaline wears off they realize they aren’t fine.
If the stimulus is really strong, your body will experience an adrenaline dump and you won’t even notice that you’re injured until that adrenaline dump stops and you’ll realize that you’re injured and that’s when your body will feel it. The greater the stimulus the more quickly you’ll feel the problem.
What do I do if I experience pain?
The first thing to do is to go to see Dr. Brian Short, DC and get a checkup to see what is wrong. You may have a muscle injury or a subluxation but it’s important to get the facts and know what you’re dealing with. The difference between pain and soreness is that pain is sharp and soreness is aches. If the issue is a result of a subluxation, chiropractic adjustments can help your nervous system to function uninhibited and allow you to feel the difference. When your spine is working at optimal levels your body is better equipped to handle pain and heal.