MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: what chemically is happening when you have chronic pain?

Date: Sun Jan 23 22:01:39 2005
Posted By: Jeffrey Utz, Software Engineer
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 1104725604.Ns

When you whack your thumb with a hammer, the soft tissue (like fat and 
connective tissue under your skin) gets damaged. This is why you 
sometimes see a bruise (which is caused when blood leaks out from  broken 
blood vessels).

When the tissue is damaged, various chemicals are released by the damaged 
tissues and by nerve terminals in the area. These chemicals cause the 
sensation of pain. Pain is good, because it tells you not to do that 
again. And, it causes you not to use the thumb for a little bit until it 
is healed, or at least feeling better in a few  minutes. 

These chemicals that are released include potassium, which is released by 
cells when they are injured, adenosine, 5-hydroxytrypatimine, increased 
acidity and peptides (essentially short proteins),  like bradykinin. 
These chemical cause the sensation of pain you feel. The feeling of pain 
decreases as your damaged cells stop releasing them and they break down 
or are washed out of the area by your blood.

We're supposed to recommend sites or references about the subject. 
Unforunately, I haven't been able to find any good ones. The only thing 
that I found was the book Pain, by Malzack and Wall published in 1990 by 
Columbia University Press.

Thanks for you excellent question.

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