Body, space and pain
There is growing interest in understanding how the perception of pain (and touch) is influenced by the way we represent our body and the space surrounding it. Recent views argue that pain can only be understood in a larger framework of body perception and action.
This attention is driven by accumulating research in experimental and clinical domains, indicating that pain perception depends largely on cognitive factors and multisensory integration. The interest is also boosted by studies on chronic pain conditions suggesting a tight link between body perception and the maintenance of pain.
Chronic pain is accompanied by a variety of alterations in body perception. Pain patients often exhibit distortions in the perception of limb positions and sizes: back pain patients have problems in delineating the outline of their backs and their body image is distorted in the painful area. Patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) suffer from intense pain in their affected hand and often perceive it as being larger than it actually. Amputees often report pain in their amputated limb and the amount of pain seems to be related to distorted spatial perception of the limb. Results from CRPS patients show that not only the perception of the body is affected, but that pain leads to a distorted perception of the peripersonal space surrounding the body. At a more fundamental level, sensory changes associated with chronic pain states cannot be explained by peripheral deficits alone, rather, cortical representations seem to be involved as well. how body perception and pain are linked to each other has been conducted from different and possibly overlapping perspectives.
Journal of Pain Management and Therapy
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