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Physical suffering associated with a bodily disorder (such as a disease or injury) and accompanied by mental or emotional distress. Pain, in its simplest form, is a warning mechanism that helps protect an organism by influencing it to withdraw from harmful stimuli (such as a pinprick). In its more complex form, such as in the case of a chronic condition accompanied by depression or anxiety, it can be difficult to isolate and treat. Pain receptors, found in the skin and other tissues, are nerve fibres that react to mechanical, thermal, and chemical stimuli. Pain impulses enter the spinal cord and are transmitted to the brain stem and thalamus. The perception of pain is highly variable among individuals; it is influenced by previous experiences, cultural attitudes (including gender stereotypes), and genetic makeup. Medication, rest, and emotional support are the standard treatments. The most potent pain-relieving drugs are opium and morphine, followed by less-addictive substances and non-narcotic analgesics such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pain, visit Britannica.com.