Headaches Hurt More Than Any Other Pain Due To Our Emotions

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

If you have a stomach ache that’s no fun, but it’s just your stomach that hurts. If you step your toe, that’s a lot of pain but at least it’s just your toe. But if your head hurts, it’s all consuming, you just want to crawl under your blanket and stay there forever. Why is that? What is it about a head pain? If you feel that way, you are not alone. Research shows that the similar stimulus will cause a stronger pain response in the head than in the rest of the body and scientists are finally starting to understand why.

It’s not just about the pain but it’s about emotions, too. It actually comes down to how your brain is wired. Research has shown that sensory neurons connect to the head and face are directly rooted to the brain’s emotional center. Sensory neurons in the rest of the body are also connected to the 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 brain are more sensitive than those in the body.

Researchers found more activity in the emotional brain center, the amygdala for head pain. The same was found in mice. Further studies show that activating the brain pathways linked to emotions, can prompt pain and it spirals from there. An external emotional trigger can cause a headache which can evoke stress response that make the stress worse. Meanwhile, during these headache episodes, the brain is normally sensitive to light and sound. The good news is that silencing those pathways that cause pain reduces the physical symptoms. This is useful for treating chronic pain and migraines.

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 also about emotions. It 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 center. 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 center, the amygdala, for head pain.

The same thing was found with mice. The researchers found more activity occurred 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.

This video, "Why do headaches seem to hurt worse than any other type of pain? Scientists have an answer and it has to do with your emotions. ", first appeared on seeker.com.

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