The role of the brain in pain relief


15 September 2017

“This research gives us an indication of just how important pain perception is, with significant implications for the treatment and rehabilitation for injury victims who have suffered severe traumatic or life changing injuries."

Pain is a highly subjective experience, meaning that the exact same events can be felt in varying degrees of intensity, dependent entirely on an individual’s pain threshold and tolerance. What may seem a routine injection for some can be a distressing and painful experience for another.

Many cite genetic makeup as the root of people’s individual pain thresholds, but continuing research is challenging the way we think about not only pain, but pain relief too.

The now well-known “rubber hand illusion” was pioneered in 2007, with the experiment involving the subject’s real hand being hidden from view and manipulated according to what they were witnessing on a fake rubber hand. The test subjects reported feeling as though the rubber hand was their own.

Progressing the illusion to its next natural stage, a team at the University of Hull have demonstrated that it is also possible to trick the mind into reducing the sensation of pain where a placebo treatment cream is used.

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni, director of the Behavioural Medicine Laboratory at the University of Hull, said: “Placebo analgesia is one of the best understood placebo effects but no research has examined how the experience of the body – as opposed to the perception of the treatment itself – can influence treatment.

“This previously unexamined aspect of the treatment process has important potential implications for pain management. Patients may be able to manipulate the body’s representation of pain, learning to train their brain to incorporate an external object as if it were part of their body – and therefore displace the pain onto that object.”

The new research offers hope for resolving some chronic conditions suffered by serious injury victims, says David Stothard, managing director of MAPS Medical Reporting.

He commented: “This research gives us an indication of just how important pain perception is, with significant implications for the treatment and rehabilitation for injury victims who have suffered severe traumatic or life changing injuries.

“The results reflect the importance of access to leading edge treatment as part of the litigation process in personal injury and clinical negligence cases. It also presents hope for those who suffer daily from chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia or other central nervous system disorders.

“At MAPS Medical Reporting, the work we undertake enables us to aid law firms by providing access to leading medical experts in their fields, who can both report and advise on treatment recommendations. This ensures that victims of serious injury are given the most appropriate treatment available to get them on the road to recovery and assists them in regaining their maximum possible function.”

MAPS Medical Reporting provides fast access to reputable experts and high quality, specialist medical and medico legal reports to provide its customers with robust medical evidence to expedite both treatment services for the victim and the claims process. Contact us to find out more about how we can support you.