Yes, Your Headache Is Worse Than All Other Aches and Pains, Here’s Why

If you have a stomach ache that’s no fun,
but it’s just your stomach that hurts. If you stub your toe, that sucks but at least
it’s just your toe! But, if your head hurts it is all-consuming. You just want to crawl under a blanket and
stay there forever. Why is that? What is it about head pain? If you feel that way, you’re not alone;
research shows that a similar stimulus will cause a stronger pain response in the head
than the rest of the body. Scientists are finally starting to understand
why. It’s not just about pain, it’s about emotions. Ok, it’s partly emotions. It actually comes down to how the brain is
wired. Research has shown that sensory neurons that
connect to the head and face are routed directly to the brain’s main emotional centre. Sensory neurons in the rest of the body are
also connected to this same brain region, but their connection is indirect. This means that feelings of pain are tied
to emotions and emotional distress. This is regardless of where the pain is coming
from and whether sensory neurons in the head are more sensitive to pain than those in the
body. The finding is supported by fMRI data that
compares head pain to body pain. They found more activity in the emotional
brain centre — the amygdala — for head pain. The same thing was found with mice. The researchers found more activity occured
when pain stimulus was applied to the face, rather than the paw. Especially in a region linked to the brain’s
instinctive and emotional centers. Again, this a result in-line with brain wiring,
consistent with face neurons having a more direct link to emotional centers than body
neurons. Further study showed that activating the brain
pathways linked to emotions could prompt pain. And it spirals from there. An external emotional trigger can cause a
headache, which can evoke a stress response that makes the headache worse. Meanwhile, during these headache episodes,
the brain is abnormally sensitive to triggers like light and sound. The good news from this brain-pain connection
is that silencing those same pathways that can cause pain, reduce the physical symptoms. This has some pretty interesting implications
for treating physical ailments, especially things like frequent migraines and any kind
of chronic neuropathic face pain. Because if there’s an emotional element
for head and face pain then dealing with the emotional element might actually lessen the
pain. Treatment could go beyond pain management
and seek to restore the chemical balance in the brain to silence the pain pathway. Emotional pain can have some lasting effects,
for example — men never really get over their breakups. Trace and I eat ice cream and talk about it
here. Of course, if you’re lactose intolerant,
some research says that taking pain-relievers for a headache during a breakup can actually
lessen the emotional pain! Thanks for watching.


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