Pain Transmission

The transmission of pain involves two systems— an ascending and a descending neural system. Ascending neural systems carry information about potentially harmful stimuli from peripheral nerves to the spinal cord and from there to the brain, where information about the emotional and psychological aspects of painful stimuli is incorporated. In addition, the perception of painful stimuli is altered by descending neural systems, which send information from the brain back to the spinal cord. Pain transmission can be altered at any point in this loop. Drugs such as aspirin (an analgesic) relieve pain by reducing pain sensitivity in the periphery. Local anesthetics such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) and procaine (Novocaine) relieve pain by blocking nerve conduction in specific areas. Morphine and other opioids (narcotics) alter pain transmission by interfering with the processing of painful stimuli in the spinal cord and the brain.

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