You’re not imagining it. People consistently say pain in the head, face, jaw, eyes, ears, and teeth is more disruptive, and more emotionally draining, than pain anywhere else in the body.
Scientists at Duke University say this is absolutely true. In fact, they say our brains are wired this way, making us suffer more from head and face pain. And the wiring, scientists say, may not have to do with our senses — but rather our emotions.
The team found that sensory neurons that serve the head and face are wired directly into one of the brain’s principal emotional signaling hubs. Sensory neurons elsewhere in the body are also connected to this hub, but only indirectly.
“Usually doctors focus on treating the sensation of pain, but this shows the we really need to treat the emotional aspects of pain as well,” said Fan Wang, a professor of neurobiology and cell biology at Duke, and senior author of the study.
Pain signals from the head versus those from the body are carried to the brain through two different groups of sensory neurons, and it is possible that neurons from the head are simply more sensitive to pain than neurons from the body.
Paving the Way for Future Treatment
“We have the first biological explanation for why this type of pain can be so much more emotionally taxing than others,” said Wolfgang Liedtke, a professor of neurology at Duke University Medical Center and a co-author on Wang’s paper, who is also treating patients with head- and face-pain. “This will open the door toward not only a more profound understanding of chronic head and face pain, but also toward translating this insight into treatments that will benefit people.”
Some of the most debilitating forms of pain occur in the head regions, such as migraine, TMJ or tooth pain. I, along with the rest of the pain management community, am hopeful that the discovery of this direct pain pathway might provide an explanation why facial pain is more severe — and pave the way for more effective treatment.
Live a Pain Free Life Again
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Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.