The anatomy and physiology of pain

Published:January 28, 2016DOI:


      Pain is an unpleasant experience that results from both physical and psychological responses to injury. A complex set of pathways transmits pain messages from the periphery to the central nervous system, where control occurs from higher centres. Primary afferent pain fibres synapse with second-order neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Ascending spinothalamic and spinoreticular tracts convey pain up to the brain, where pain signals are processed by the thalamus and sent to the cortex. Descending tracts, via the midbrain periaquaductal grey and nucleus raphe magnus, have a role in pain modulation. When nerves are damaged, neuropathic pain results and various mechanisms have been proposed for how this takes place. These mechanisms involve both peripheral and central sensitization.


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