We now know that there’s much more to pain than simply what is happening in the painful body part, and attention has turned to the role of the brain. But not even this mysterious organ can tell us everything we need to know about pain, at least not yet.
You may wonder why the brain is part of the discussion about pain at all. After all, we’re not talking about a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s or stroke.
But we think that the brain is actually the best place to look when trying to understand pain; after all, pain is a purely subjective experience.
The problem is that pain cannot be “seen”. While a flinch, a limp, or a grimace may provide us with clues, ultimately we only know that someone is in pain if they tell us they are.