2 minute read


Pain Control

Pain control is achieved primarily through the use of drugs or through psychological approaches. Anesthetic and opiate drugs block pain signals to the brain or inhibit certain chemicals involved in the electrical pain impulses. Aspirin, the most widely used form of pharmaceutical pain control, works on the injured tissue itself by blocking the synthesis of prostaglandins, thus reducing the amount of pain impulses received by the pain receptors.

Psychological approaches to reduce pain by increasing an individual's pain threshold and tolerance were largely developed for chronic pain sufferers, but may also work in cases of acute pain. One such method involves focusing the attention on something other than the pain, such as a past pleasant experience, music, or even a complex mathematical problem. Relaxation and meditation techniques are used to reduce stress and muscle tension that may increase feelings of pain. Exercise can also help reduce pain because it causes the brain to produce more endorphins.

See also Analgesia; Anesthesia.



Melzack, Ronald, and Patrick D. Wall. The Challenge of Pain. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

Moller, Aage R. Sensory Systems: Anatomy and Physiology. New York: Academic Press, 2002.

Toure, Halima. Pain. New York: Impact Books, 1981.


Barinaga, Marcia. "Playing Telephone With the Body's Message of Pain." Science 258 (1992): 1085.

Kiefer, D. M. "Chemistry Chronicles: Miracle Medicines."

Today's Chemist 10, no. 6 (June 2001): 59-60.

David Petechuk


Anterior cingulate gyrus

—A part of the brain that may play a critical role in controlling emotions and response to pain.


—The biological or physiological chemicals of living organisms.


—A biochemical present in the blood that acts as a vasodilator (which causes the dilation of blood vessels).


—A type of pain caused by severe burning of the skin.

Central nervous system

—The brain and spinal cord components of the nervous system that control the activities of internal organs, movements, perceptions, thoughts, and emotions.

Cerebral cortex

—The external gray matter surrounding the brain and made up of layers of nerve cells and fibers; it is thought to process sensory information and impulses.


—Biochemicals produced by the brain that act as opiates and reduce pain.


—Severe throbbing or stabbing pain that originates in the nerve fibers.


—Nervous system unit that includes the nerve cell, dendrites, and axons.

NMDA receptors

—Specific neuron receptors that strengthen neural connections and may play a role in pain perception.


—A biochemical substance, present in many tissues, that plays an important role in healing injured areas and relaying pain messages to the brain.


—A structure at the top of the brain stem that acts as the primary relay station for biochemical messages from the spinal cord to the brain.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPain - The Physical Origins Of Pain, Types Of Pain, Psychological Factors In The Individual Experience Of Pain