Pain and the conscious mind

Whitburn, L. Y. (2013). Labour pain: from the physical brain to the conscious mind. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 34(3), 139-143. Abstract.

The study of pain goes well beyond the study of anatomy and physiology. To fully understand a phenomenon such as pain, one must consider the realm in which it exists – the conscious mind. This paper aims to explore the concept of the conscious mind and its relevance to the human experience of labour pain. Understanding the interactions between the mind, brain, body, social environment and natural world on the experience of pain enables a more comprehensive conception of labour pain.

Reaffirming that pain is an embodied is important during this current era in pain science research that seems to lean towards neuroreductionism and conceptualises pain as a pathological by-product of disease. Labour pain, however, is a clear demonstration that pain is not always a signal of bodily disorder.

The experience of pain is generated by the brain and is realised through the conscious mind. Thus, the study of pain – particularly complex pains such as labour pain – should focus not just on the physical body and neural processes in the brain but must aim to include, and be capable of capturing, all elements that constitute it; the mind, brain, body and the environment.

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