Decades of research and all the top pain experts in the world agree: pain is a biological, psychological, and social experience!

You might not have thought about it this way before, but it is true…and very powerful. Understanding these three factors opens up all sorts of possibilities to make things feel a lot better.


biological pain dragon illustration

1. Biological

So this is one is the most obvious: when we damage something on our body, it usually hurts. It’s our body’s way of telling us something might be wrong. Our nervous system sends signals to our brain so we know to check things out and take care of anything that needs to be taken care of.

What is less obvious is that the physical state of your body also changes the way our bodies process pain signals. What does that really mean?  Well, the more hungry/tired/sick, stressed/etc we are, the worse pain tends to be. It means treating pain well also means making sure the rest of your body is doing well too.


Fun Fact

The pain experience is different for everyone. How much a cut on your finger hurts can be totally different for someone else with the exact same cut on their finger.


2. Psychological

Have you ever noticed that it hurts worse when you stub you toe when you are in a bad mood than when you are in a good mood? Yep? Cool…now you can understand there that is a psychological part of the pain experience. For the record, this is not “crazy”…it’s just the way the human body is designed.

Our thoughts, feelings, and mood change our pain experience, and our pain experience tends to change them right back. Turns out we can use this cool fact to change things for the better and be a lot more comfortable and in control.


3. Social

Have you ever watched a kid look at their parent to see how they should react after a fall? Yeah? Great…now you know that there is SOCIAL piece to the pain experience (and nope, that isn’t crazy either.) How the people around us (family, friends, bosses, teachers, medical providers) changes how we respond to and react to pain.

For parents in particular, understanding this can be a game changer, and give you a lot more control!


How much each factor plays depends on the situation, but all three are always in play.


Next up: Let’s clear up outdated beliefs about pain that can cause all sort of problems.

Myths and Misconceptions >