What makes you feel pain

Sensory disturbances

Happy painlessly?

The way drug manufacturers advertise sometimes sounds like the answer to the prayers of all back injured and migraine sufferers: "Finally pain-free" or "We stop pain where it arises". But what if we were really completely pain-free?

In evolution, the perception of pain has developed as a warning signal. Pain tells us that damage is being done to our body. As a rule, they trigger behavior in us that, on the one hand, causes us to save ourselves from the danger zone and, on the other hand, promotes the healing process. That is why we keep a broken leg still or take it easy after an operation.

People who live without pain sensations are in real danger. Like everyone else, you can seriously injure yourself, but you cannot feel your wounds. What at first sounds like a gift from heaven quickly turns out to be a curse for those affected. It becomes particularly dangerous, for example, with internal injuries that are difficult or impossible to detect from the outside.

Children do not perceive pain

There are children who are born free from the sensation of pain. You perceive cold, warmth, touch or your own body completely normally. But they cannot imagine the feeling of pain.

As they get older, some begin to imitate gestures that express pain. Because expressions of pain also have a social component: They show that we are human and vulnerable.

The bodies of these children clearly show that freedom from pain is anything but a blessing: grazed knees or bruises go unnoticed, but all other injuries, some of which are severe, also go unnoticed.

The children are covered with scars, have partially chewed their tongues or fingertips and their legs and arms are crooked from undetected and therefore untreated broken bones.

The little accidents of childhood in particular teach us which situations and behaviors can be potentially dangerous and which ones we should therefore avoid in the future.

A Pakistani boy caused a stir with his performances as a street artist. He rammed knives in his arms or ran over glowing coals. In contrast to other fakirs, however, he actually didn't even feel an uncomfortable feeling. Shortly before his 14th birthday, he died after jumping off the roof of a house.

The stocking-glove feeling

Complete freedom from pain is very rare. Somewhat more common is the so-called stocking and glove feeling. Arms and legs show less sensitivity in those affected than if they were constantly wearing stockings and gloves.

The loss of sensation can range from a reduced sensation of pain to complete numbness. The symptom can be congenital, but it can also be caused by illness.

The infectious disease leprosy was already known in biblical times. Popular belief has long held that lepers' arms and legs rot and then fall off. In fact, leprosy is also based on a feeling disorder.

Infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae leads to the death of nerve cells. Patients no longer notice wounds and therefore run the risk of losing their limbs.

The fact that arms and legs fall off has a real background. The lepers were often forced to live in disastrous sanitary conditions. Since they could not feel anything in their arms and legs, they did not notice when rats gnawed their fingers and toes in their sleep.

Diabetes can also lead to a sock-glove feeling. This disease is particularly prevalent in wealthier countries. If left untreated, it also affects the nerves. These are damaged by the high blood sugar level. The result: arms and legs lose their ability to feel.

Driven out of the skin

In addition to the loss of pain perception, self-awareness can also be lost. Such as with acute sensory neuropathy syndrome. Affected people no longer feel their own body parts and do not know where they are without looking at them.

Few cases of this disease are known from the past. In his book "Pride and a Daily Marathon", the British neurophysiologist Jonathan Cole tells the seemingly unbelievable story of a young man who lost his body feeling at the age of 19. Although he feels warmth, cold and pain, he can no longer assign them to his body. Since he can neither feel the touch of his body with the sheet nor the floor under his feet, he feels as if he is floating through the room without a body.

Without feedback from the body, the brain has no clues for its movement commands. The young man cannot move in a controlled manner and his body parts begin to move independently in various directions.

Over time, he learns again to coordinate his body. With the utmost concentration and constant visual control, he manages to walk and even do a job. This mental effort that lies behind every seemingly everyday movement is inconceivable for healthy people.

Author: Julia von Sengbusch

Status: 07/30/2018, 3:21 pm