What is Pain?

Pain is a protective mechanism generated by the brain in response to perceived threat. It can occur when nociceptors (or danger receptors) in your body receive messages to indicate a change in pressure or force or chemical or temperature changes that is significant enough for an alarm signal to be sent to the brain.

But nociception is not always involved in the generation of pain. Thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and other things can also activate alarm signals in your brain which can generate pain.

It is important to remember that pain is a response to perceived threat, not a response to damage. The brain is very sensitive to a range of possible threats, and sometimes just being in the same place where you were previously injured can be enough to trigger a pain response if the brain perceives that the environment itself is a threat.

This video was made by one of our Rehabilitation Counsellors as a way of explaining some of the various things that can impact on a person’s experience of pain.

Some Useful Resources and Links:

Pain Revolution  Pain Revolution is an initiative by the University of South Australia. This website includes some of the latest and best articles, information and videos for people in pain.

Tame the Beast  A short animation, narrated by Professor Lorimer Moseley, that talks to you about pain, and how we can tame that beast. There is also additional information within a ‘Tame the Beast’  website with a range of information to help you understand and manage your pain.

Permission To Move | Three Easy Steps to Recover from Chronic Pain   A short mixed media film made in collaboration between Australian Physiotherapist and author Dave Moen and Niceshit Studio. 

Understanding Pain in less than 5 minutes, and what to do about it!  A simple and easy to understand video explaining pain in a series of animated drawings. 

Explaining Brain Smudging   A short video by Dr. David Butler explaining neuroplasticity.

Neuroscience nugget #45: Let the light in  A short video by Dr. David Butler encouraging us all to increase our movement and “let the light in!”

Pain Scientists Answer Common Questions About Pain   Made in the style of Wired’s “Tech Support” series, three top pain scientists – Prof Lorimer Moseley, Dr. Tasha Stanton, and Dr. David Butler answer your burning questions about pain.

Neuroscience nugget #30 – Sensitive Sensor Lights  A short video using the example of an oversensitive sensor light to explain an oversensitive pain system. 

TEDxAdelaide – Lorimer Moseley – Why Things Hurt  A 15 minute video by Professor Lorimer Moseley exploring the question of why things hurt, and explaining pain as our bodies’ way of protecting us from damaging tissues further. He also looks at what this might mean for those who suffer from chronic pain.

The Drug Cabinet in the Brain  Dr David Butler makes comparisons between your brain’s natural chemical production and their pharmaceutical counterparts.


Explain Pain, written by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley

Painful Yarns, written by Lorimer Moseley

The Explain Pain Handbook: Protectometer, written by Lorimer  Moseley & David Butler

Permission to Move, co-authored by Dave Moen and endorsed by Lorimer Moseley

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