The Biology of Pain
Injury Care & Prevention Feb 26, 2016
The Biology of Pain

Pain is a big topic in healthcare these days.

“ . . . the biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be. . . the biology of pain requires a reconceptualisation of what pain actually is . . .

–Dr. G. Lorimer Moseley

There was an alternative rock band called Morphine in the early ‘90s that had their 15 minutes of fame. Part of their hipster charm was that their sound was not driven by a lead guitar as most rock ‘n’ roll bands are—and their songwriting was both adventurous and thought-provoking.

Most of their material was written by the bass player, Mark Sandman, a fascinating figure on the scene, who wrote a fine song called “Cure for Pain” with this lyric: “Someday there’ll be a cure for pain.”

Sadly, Mark died at a very young age. There are several ironies, of course–the band’s name, the writer’s last name. And the concept of a “cure for pain,” as if existential or spiritual or emotional pain could be “cured.” Nonetheless, despite all the ways we try, pain is always with us, in its many forms, defying a cure.

Pain is punishment?

Maybe it’s good to note here that the derivation of the word “pain” comes from a Greek word meaning “punishment” or “penalty.” As if you deserved pain! Didn’t know the ancient Greeks thought like this—it’s mostly geniuses like James Joyce and Woody Allen that suffer from guilt-induced pain as some kind of punishment for enjoying life.

But, you can look at pain differently. As Dr. Moseley—who leads the Body in Mind Research Group, based at University of South Australia in Sydney, which investigates the role of the brain and mind in chronic pain, says:

“Pain is an unpleasant conscious experience that emerges from the brain when the sum of all the available information suggests that you need to protect a particular part of your body . . .”


“Pain is the output. Nociception is one of the inputs.”

Now, there’s a mouthful! “Nociception” is basically how you process harmful stimuli–the ability of a body to sense potential harm, the perception of pain. “Nociceptors” being nerve cells that respond to trouble by sending signals to the spinal cord and brain.


It’s far more complex than “it’s all in your head.” But merchants and snake oil salesmen have managed to make you think otherwise by flooding the market with an extraordinary amount of pain relievers, creams, remedies, meds, pills, and yes, pain cures. The list of claims and canards goes on and on.

Clearly, there is no cure for pain. Dr. Moseley and other physicians and researchers are deeply involved in exploring the role of the brain and mind in chronic pain. After all, pain is a pain to society. “ . . . it affects 20% of the population and costs western societies about as much as diabetes and cancer combined.”

Pain is personal, relief is real

Instead of looking for that elusive cure, best to get to the root cause. Everyone’s pain is personal. And physical, muscular and joint pain is so personal. It’s your body, its stresses, its weak points. Whether you sit all day at work. Or move furniture.  Bend over to pick up little Johnny 2,345 times a day.

And this is where Orthology comes in. Our mission is to explore your pain, your injury, explore your particular musculoskeletal issues and find the origin of your pain—and create a wellness strategy that gets you better, faster. It’s not a cure for pain. To Dr. Mosely’s point, it’s about the perception of pain, too—how you experience it.  Orthology’s treatment is done by a team that brings expert skill from a variety of disciplines, focused on your problem. And the fundamental mission is remove pain from the equation immediately, to create lasting recovery.

Once that pain disappears, your whole world brightens up, and to quote a line from another song: “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when you’re gone.”