You can think your way out of pain

Mark Fenske: Between the heavy mallet and the paving stone, my misplaced finger didn’t stand a chance. But it wasn’t the sight of the bloody, smashed-apart fingernail or split-open fingertip that first made clear my mistake. It was the pain. That searing, body-tensing, tears-in-the-eyes pain.

The basic function of pain is to interrupt whatever else is going on and draw our attention to the fact that something is wrong, that the body is facing or has already suffered some kind of damage. Sensory nerves, called nociceptors (i.e. danger receptors) detect elements capable of body-tissue damage, such as pressure or extreme heat. The nerves’…

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