I am sure you have all noticed how when you do something like accidentally poke your finger with a pin, it takes a few seconds for you to actually feel the pain. This is because the impulses from the injury are sent to the brain via nerves in the tip of your finger. These impulses are then analyzed and interpreted, and it is only when your brain decides that yes, this is a threat, that it will send the pain response down to your finger so that you react accordingly. In this case that reaction would be to pull your finger away from the pin, and not do it again!
So technically, your finger doesn’t hurt until your brain tells it to. It is the brain that controls the pain.
You can see this phenomenon with young children. Toddler A falls down, bumps his or her head on a chair, and simply carries on with whatever it was they were doing without much reaction at all.
The nerve endings in the area of the head that was bumped sent signals to the brain, but the brain can tell by the nerve impulses sent that there is no open wound or internal tissue damage warranting an inflammatory response, and the child has no reason to interpret the incident as a threat yet, so his/her brain simply dismisses the incident with no further communication.
This same incident happens to Toddler B and a bawling breakdown ensues. This can be due often times to an over reactive grown up, either scaring the child with the way they handle a simple little bump on the head, or a learned reaction stemming from the way they dealt with a previous incident. Also, if there was an incident earlier in the child’s life where actual injury did occur, they may interpret this much lesser, trivial bump as a much larger concern.
This can also explain to some degree why people in the heat of battle, or athletes in competition can do amazing things while obviously injured. Their brain either hasn’t had time to assimilate all the stimuli it is receiving, or possibly has some way of shutting down the communication in times of extreme peril. There isn’t much point in knowing your toe hurts when you are in danger of being caught by a crocodile!
So what I am trying to say here is that your brain controls pain. It either tells you that something hurts, or it doesn’t. And the brain is a crazily complex neurological marvel, which can take learned behavior, personal beliefs and ideas and mix those up with innate programming, and spit out a completely unique personal interpretation of any given situation. Which basically means that no one experiences the same situation in the same way.
So what is painful or scary or stress-full to you might be a walk in the park to someone else.
It is plausible then, that some cases of pain are actually manifestations of our own interpretations of a situation. We assume that things will hurt in certain situations; your neck will be sore after a car accident, your back will hurt if you shoveled gravel all day, your knees should hurt because you were told there are arthritic changes showing on X Ray.
If you believe statements such as these, your brain will use that information when interpreting signals it receives constantly from different parts of your body. You may actually be setting yourself up for pain that isn’t even there! Sometimes that old saying “It’s all in your brain” could actually be true!