Pain is All in Your Head: It’s The Brain Sensing Danger

Dec 5

We often hear with regard to pain, “It’s all in your head.” There is truth to this statement.

First, let’s define what pain is: The physical feeling caused by disease, injury or something that hurts the body. It can be mental or emotional suffering.

Each of us interprets pain differently based on previous experiences. Our brain remembers and stores this information.


  • Acute is physical or emotional pain that is present and then goes away;
  • Chronic is a pain and stimulus that continues to manifest itself over time, creating a heightened nervous system that is easily stimulated when the brain senses “danger.”

Chronic pain often manifests in patients with complex medical histories via an acute injury that has become chronic in nature. Various comorbidities (two more more diseases existing in the body at the same time) include inflammatory conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

Each of these conditions puts the nervous system in a heightened state, and the tiniest threat to the system can cause a spiraling effect because the brain interprets this pain at a much higher level.

Physical therapy can help patients deal with chronic pain by identifying these comorbidities and figuring out how to work through a patient’s underlying “threat” to an injury or condition. It does this by increasing blood flow, oxygenation and movement of the nervous system, ultimately enhancing muscle and joint function throughout the body and specifically the injured tissue.

General strengthening and endurance training help to improve muscle and nerve function, decreasing one’s interpretation of pain.