Pain Definitions

‘Charles Sherrington, one of the greatest neuroscientists of all time, defined pain in a text book on physiology published in 1900 as “the psychical adjunct of a protective reflex.”’

Cervero 2012 opening sentence.

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Aristotle 350BC: ’‘We measure our actions by the rule of pleasure and pain. For this reason, then, our whole enquiry must be about these.’  Pain is not one of the five senses but is a ‘passion of the soul.’ (quoted by Cervero 2012 p10)


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For Fernando Cervero, president of the International Association for the Study of Pain, pain is ‘elusive’ it is ‘a complex experience that can only be measured by the verbal reports of patients.’ Cervero 2012 p160.

The widely used IASP definition of pain couples emotion and sensation referenced to tissue damage. The reference to tissue damage anchors pain as involving the body. ‘Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.’

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Pain as being dependant on emotion and experience of trauma 

‘With Freedom from Pain, two pioneers in the field of pain and trauma recovery address a crucial missing factor essential to long-term healing: addressing the unresolved emotional trauma held within the body’ back cover, Levine and Phillips 2012.

‘In our experience, the primary antidote for people who struggle with pain and trauma is to learn how to regulate emotional and sensory experiences, and to calm themselves so the limbic fear and rage systems in the amygdala deactivate.’ p24, Levine and Phillips 2012.

Biopsychosocial Model 

What is Pain Neurons 2014 v2.008

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