5 Things You Should Know About Pain

1. Your brain is unable to feel pain.

There are no pain sensitive nerves in your brain. Your body has pain sensitive nerves that release chemicals, which send pain signals up through the spinal cord to receptors in the brain. The brain then sends the pain message back down to the part of the body that hurts. That doesn’t mean you should go poking around in your head, but… that’s exactly what scientists do. In technique called brain mapping, surgeons probe around while monitoring your body’s reactions to learn more about the brain—all while you are awake.


2. The most painful insect bite is a Bullet Ant bite.

The Bullet Ant is one of three insects that have achieved the highest rating on the Schmidt sting pain index. The index, created by entomologist Justin Schmidt, is his way of classifying the pain of hymenopteran stings. The bullet ant’s sting is described as “pure intense, brilliant pain” and “fire walking over flaming charcoal with a 3 inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.” This pain remains at full strength for one to four hours and can linger for 12 hours.

Schmidt, Justin O. “Hymenopteran Venoms: Striving Toward the Ultimate Defense Against Vertabrates”, in Evans, David L. and Schmidt, Justin O. (eds.) Insect Defenses: Adaptive Mechanisms and Strategies of Prey and Predators Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.
Starr, Christopher “A Simple Pain Scale for Field Comparison of Hymenopteran Stings” J. Entomol. Sci 20.2 (1985): 225-232.

3. The most excruciating pain a human can experience is a headache.

The cluster headache, also known as the suicide headache, is often classified as the “worst pain known to medical science.” It has been described by patients as worse than childbirth without anesthesia, while passing kidney stones and farting out a boulder. Okay, I made that last part up, but cluster headaches are no joke. The worst part is that scientists have no idea what is causing them or why them seem to occur on an alarm clock like schedule. Some current treatments for patients that do not commit suicide are psychedelic drugs and 100 percent oxygen.


4. Cursing helps us tolerate pain.

You ever stub your toe and scream out obscenities? Well it turns out that cursing actually helps you deal with the pain, thanks science. A study showed that students could keep their hand in a bucket of ice water longer when they would scream curse words instead of remaining silent. So next time you get a paper cut at work or get stung by a bee at your mother-in-law’s house while BBQing, you know just how to deal with the pain.


5. Men (Supposedly) Have a Higher Pain Threshold Than Women

With the exception of around the time of child birth, men have a higher pain threshold, as women seem to have more pain receptors in their skin that amplify their exposure to aches and pains. To make matters worse, women can require up to double the amount of painkillers to get the same amount of relief as men. This is due to a protein called GIRK2 that is not usually found in women and it helps men with reducing pain sensation and increasing drug sensitivity.


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