Is Disproportional Pain Real?
Pain does not always directly correlate to the extent of an injury. In “Amplified Pain – A Helpful Diagnosis,” published recently in JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. David Sherry gave the example of pricking one’s finger in his discussion of disproportional pain. The damage is minor, but the pain is real. In response, the body shuts down blood to the area which causes increased pain. He explains it as being similar to having a rubber band on your finger for too long. While there may not be any real damage, your finger hurts nonetheless. Aside from the actual prick, there are new signals of pain that are fed into the cycle – which leads to more pain. He describes it as being akin to feedback in a microphone when the microphone gets too close to a speaker.
Dr. Sherry notes that fellow physician, Dr. John Monica, the founder of the world's first pain clinic, has often remarked that "all pain is in the head". Certainly pain is real, no one denies its existence. From a scientific basis, of course it is in your head, but the implication that the recipient is malingering or imagining the pain is false and unhelpful. Likewise, the often-heard label “disproportional pain” may be accurate but should not be interpreted as invalidating the existence of pain. The body's response to injury may magnify the level of pain beyond that caused by the actual injury, but that does not make it any less real. While this is important in children, who are often accused of faking or seeking attention, the unintended consequence of such labels is minimizing the actual pain experienced. The same is true for adults who may be accused of seeking attention or having a financial motive for claiming pain. The mere fact that pain is disproportional should not confirm such suspicions. The body does in fact amplify pain.