The sensation of pain partly acts as a self preservation method (i.e heat, sharpness = potential damage to the body) is it possible for the pain response to be triggered by something non damaging or vice versa?

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The sensation of pain partly acts as a self preservation method (i.e heat, sharpness = potential damage to the body) is it possible for the pain response to be triggered by something non damaging or vice versa?

In: Biology
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In a way, yes.

For example, capsaicin, or the chemical that makes hot peppers spicy, isn’t damaging anything in your mouth really.

Instead what it doesn’t is interact with the nerves in your mouth that detect when you’re burning your mouth with hot food, which say typically get set off at temperature X. What capaiscin does is lower the temperature required to activate those nerves to temperature Y, which happens to be low enough that those nerves now get set off by your own body heat. Even though there isn’t any real damage going on. (Although there can be damage if capsaicin gets into sensitive places, like your eyes, at really high concentrations, which is why you always wash your hands well after cutting peppers.)

Want to trigger the pain response without actually harming yourself?

Eat a spicy pepper. The capsaicin in hot peppers is just similar enough to certain neurotransmitters that they trigger the sensors for heat and pain in the nerves of your mouth and tongue.

Interestingly, birds lack this reaction, so they would just taste the fruitiness of the peppers, allowing them to swallow the seeds and spread them later when they poop.

Of course.

The sensation is driven by nerves, right?

Anything that irritates the nerve, can trigger sensations that aren’t being driven by tissue damage.

For instance, spicy food only feels like your mouth is on fire. Same sensation as burning, but no tissue damage.

And if nerves are “turned off”, even when there is extensive tissue damage, there will be no sensation of pain.

This is how an epidural works during childbirth.

Indigenous people from equatorial cultures who have never experienced anything frozen before will often spit out ice cream the first time they have it, shouting, “Hot! Hot!” Not sure it qualifies as an answer to your question, but their pain response is triggered by ice cream, which is not damaging, lactose intolerance notwithstanding. I imagine it only takes a matter of seconds before they realize they were just confused and want to try it again.

Your body can also make itself hyper sensitive to stimuli.

Pain is a sensory response to a stimulus of a magnitude that would cause harm to the body.

When you burn your hand it hurts because youve touched something hot enough to damage your hand, to get you to stop touching it.

You will then have a burn – damaged tissues.

These damaged tissues release chemicals that put your pain receptors on edge, because that burn is extra vulnerable.

This is why it doesnt hurt to lightly brush your skin, but it hurts a lot to lightly brush a fresh burn… or push a bruise, move a broken bone etc etc. Your body’s response to protect itself is to make the pain receptors hypersensitive

Menthol in high enough dosages can make your nerves feel cold to the point of hurting. But it doesn’t do any damage.

I think there’s some electrical systems can can stimulate your nerves directly, but they can cause some small amounts of physical damage. So it’s not really damageless pain as it is incredibly disproportionate and irrelevant pain.