Why do we have a headache if the brain does not feel pain?

Why do we have a headache if the brain does not feel pain?

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The headache can disappear with an analgesic or force us to stay in the dark in bed if it is a migraine.

 

“The headaches are very interesting because we know very little about them, I’ve been working in this area for 30 years and I still learn something new every day.”

The phrase belongs to Anne MacGregor, a medical researcher established in London, leader in the field of hormonal effects in migraine.

And, according to the WHO, the headache has been underestimated, little recognized and little treated around the world.

Pain works like a warning system : it warns us that we are doing something harmful and harmful, and waits for a reaction to solve the problem.

In that sense, the headache is not different from the others. It can be more or less acute, it can disappear with an analgesic or force us to stay in the dark in bed if it is a migraine, but the mechanism is the same.

However, while the brain is the organ that produces pain, it is unable to feel it .

It seems a paradox, right?

How do we feel pain?

Brain illustration.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption The brain has no pain receptors, called nociceptors.

 

The brain plays a crucial role in the sensation of pain, since it is the one that produces it.

Within the mechanisms that cause the brain to generate such pain there is a key protagonist: the nociceptors .

It is about nerve endings that are found in the skin, in the joints and in some internal organs.

They are pain receptors and are found in varying concentrations throughout the body.

Its function is to detect the physical, chemical or thermal variations that could destroy our tissues .

Nociceptors have a certain threshold of resistance to pain, but when they are subjected to sufficiently intense stimuli, they send impulses to the spinal cord and, from there, travel to the brain.

Man with headache.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES imageImage caption Although the brain can not feel pain by not having receptors, the structures around it can.

 

At that point, the brain analyzes the data it receives and, mixing them with other factors (such as experience and learning), manages the signals to order a response or ignore them.

That is, decide whether it causes pain or not.

However, the brain itself can not feel it because it simply lacks these receptors.

So, how do you explain the headache?

The answer is that, although the brain can not feel pain when it does not have receptors, the structures around it can, as Janet Bultitude, professor of cognitive and experimental psychology at the University of Bath, explains in an article for the scientific journal The Conversation .

It is, for example, the meninges, nerve tissues, blood vessels and neck muscles.

The pressure or alterations in these structures activate the pain receptors, which send signals to the brain, in charge of interpreting and experiencing all our bodily sensations.

Bultitude explains it with two daily examples .

The first is the headache that some people feel after eating ice cream or something very cold. In that case, the pain may be due to the alteration of the blood flow of the veins that are between the back of the throat and the brain.

Regarding the headache that is associated with hangovers, it can be due to dehydration caused by the consumption of alcohol, which irritates the blood vessels of the head.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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