Pain

Designing a migraine-free lifestyle — especially for women

One in five women in America suffer from migraine headaches. In the throes of a migraine attack, simple head movement intensifies the pain. Eating or exercising is out of the question. Sometimes a migraine sufferer can’t even get out of bed.  There are 28 million Americans who have these disabling headaches — three times as many women as men. Almost half of them don’t see a doctor, don’t know their headaches are migraine or are … Read More

What causes a migraine?

“I have a pounding headache!” We’ve all heard that lament – from a friend or family member, and very likely felt one ourselves. That throbbing, pounding head pain that makes it hard to think, much less do everything we need to do. According to surveys, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches. Women are more frequent sufferers than men, with up to 25 percent of women experiencing migraines, but less … Read More

All pain is in your brain

Where is your pain? The short answer is simple: in your brain. It may seem as if it’s in your broken finger, or the toe you just stubbed on the door, or in your aching tooth. But it’s not. Pain is a sensory experience, and resides in your brain. To consider why I say that, ask yourself: does an anesthetized patient feel pain during a surgical procedure?  The answer (assuming the patient is properly anesthetized … Read More

A broken heart and a broken leg — much the same to our brains

The recent shootings at the Clackamas Town Center mall and then at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., made me think about emotional distress, and the ways in which it mirrors physical pain. When we talk about emotional suffering, it is almost impossible to avoid pain-related words. We say: “She hurt my feelings.” Or: “He broke her heart.” This is not just an idiosyncrasy of the English language; a similar pattern has been documented in … Read More

Neuropathic pain — the dysfunctional alarm

In a broad sense, pain is much more than a sensation. Pain can be a lifesaver. Pain can be pleasure. Pain can be the gate to heaven. Pain can be just an emotional suffering. When we talk about the physiologic meaning of pain, we can think of the pain system as the alarm system of the body. It is essential for the survival of the organism and complete loss of pain sensation is not compatible … Read More

Why do we have pain?

Last time I wrote about how the brain controls pain. But why would the brain need a system to control pain? The answer is that although pain is unpleasant (at best!), it is often a valuable warning signal that forces us to take care of our bodies as we go about our business. What would life be like without pain? We know the answer, because there are rare individuals who are born unable to feel … Read More

Restless legs and the holiday season

Do you notice that you are not sleeping as well during the holiday season? There can be a number of possible reasons for that; one includes a disorder called restless leg syndrome, or RLS. RLS is diagnosed by clinical symptoms. Four necessary features must be present: 1) an urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by an uncomfortable or unpleasant sensation in the legs; 2) the urge or unpleasant sensation begins or worsens during periods … Read More

How our brains control pain

Almost all of us have experienced pain at some point in our lives, probably many times. And that is not a bad thing. Pain is often a warning that something is wrong and that we need to act to avert impending injury or allow ourselves to rest and recuperate. But sometimes pain outlasts an injury, and sometimes we have pain without any obvious injury at all. How can that be? It turns out that our … Read More

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OHSU Brain Institute

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