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Guideline to Pain Control

Understanding Pain


The two key theories to understanding pain prior to 1965 were: 

  •      The Specific Theory of pain: In the 17th century Descartes that proposed that pain was a specific sense of its own, in line with sight, hearing, taste. smell, etc

  •      Pattern Theory of pain: In 19th Century Von Frey and Goldstein described how pain was the result of an “intense stimulus of non specific receptions”, Korn & Johnson, p106.

While these two theories appeared to be diametrically opposed, the Gate Control Theory put forward by Melzak and Wall in 1965 provided the context by which they could be seen to have co-existed.


The Gate Control Theory of Pain described how our

  •     Sensory Discriminative system reports the location and intensity of a stimulus to the central nervous system (CNS), and

  •     Motivational-affective system reports on the quality of pain

The needs and motivation of a person impacts on how pain is processed to the extent that the impact of the pain can be intensified or reduced. We can let the pain in and keep it out to varying degrees.


In 1973 research revealed that opiate agonist and antagonist bind to brain tissue an so we increased our understanding of the Gate Control Theory of Pain.  Earlier research had shown that when opiates bind the brain tissue they could produce analgesia and europhria.


The Gate Control Theory of pain explains why two people with the same injury can experience the pain differently.  “In an individual disease, the pain is a result of present and past experiences and perceptions – many of which remain in the unconscious mind” (Korn & Johnson, p107).


The pain experience is greatly influenced by expectation and can vary from person to person and within the one person.


Imagine you have kicked your toe on the ground.  No imagine when you look down you now see you have taken significant amount of skin from your toe - the pain instantly increases


As a subjective response, pain moves along a continuum from chronic to acute. 


Chronic pain is characterised by:

           sufficient time to develop

           constant or intermittent

            precondition event

           expectation of continuation



Acute pain is characterised by:

           definable cause

           sudden onset

           being temporary




Control of Pain

What steps can you use to control pain - drugs, surgery, manipulation and using your mind.  There appear to be a plethora of ideas available to reduce your pain.  Ranging from the promise to eliminate back pain together, to freedom from pain by using natural remedies to techniques such as self hypnosis, visualisation, goal setting for health and imagery also have a lot to offer those interested in reducing the impact of pain in their lives. 

Imagery Used in Pain Control


Pain is a warning signal.  Therefore pain control needs to be used with care and be specific.  Examples of imagery methods used for pain control are:

  • Glove Anaesthesia
  • Light Switch Image


Glove Anaesthesia

Anaesthesia or Analgesia is induced in the hand and then transferred to any other part of the body.


While a variety of methods can be used to induce the anaesthesia Korn & Johnson, p155, cite the work of David Bresler at the UCLA Pain Control Centre.  In his book, Free Yourself from Pain, the image is created of a person putting their hand in a bucket of very potent anaesthetic solution.


Other methods include:

  •      Hand encased in a very thick glove.  The more details about the beneficial impacts of the glove the better.

  •      Hand in snowdrift – feeling the tingly sensation become numb.

  •      Recall an experience of anaesthesia (eg dentist) and replicate those feelings.

After any of these exercises you need to restore normal sensations.


Pain Control with Light Switch Dimmer Imagery

Imagine this as you sit there, reading this page that you have installed a dimmer switch and it has a wire running from the area that was painful to the dimmer switch and a further wire running from the area that was painful to the brain. Now if you happen to feel any pain in an area go to your dimmer switch and slowly turn down the pain level and feel the heat running down from the switch to the pain and then the brain simultaneously.  And as the heat reaches the pain allow the intensity of the pain to decrease. Immediately following is a wonderful vibratory source emanating from the dimmer switch and it to flows down area that had contained pain and it gently massages that area with a pain relieving vibration.


You can turn the dimmer switch down further and pain will further recede.  You can continue to turn the dimmer switch down until you can barely feel the pain