We experience our mental image of pain, do you agree?

I was wondering why we describe our pain to something that we never actually felt. For examples: I never been stabbed in the head or face with an Ice pick and I never been struck by lightning but this is how I describe the Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) and as for the Cluster Headaches the pain feel like muscles spasm. Sometimes the gripping can be so bad that my right eye feels like it's going to pop out. The right side of my face for the last two years has facial weakness and numbness sensations that never goes away. Telling someone what we are feeling they only form that mental image, we on the other hand experience it as well.

It's like describing the color red to someone who can't see it. We use the only tools we have to describe it. I guess we could tazer someone repeatedly in the face but I think that would be unkind....

I always say that it feels like someone has grabbed ahold of my eyeball and is ripping it out of my eyesocket. I obviously have not had this happen either but it is the best description I can give!

That and someone is taking a knife and cutting along my face.

I always wondered if anyone else ended up with larger patches of numbness when the flareups kick in? As the pain increases for me, I notice my areas that are already numb seem to expand even more. Kind of like someone is injecting me with novocaine. Anyone else have this?

I finally just stopped trying to explain the pain. I describe it as the most excrusiating pain I have ever felt. Most of the time, the person I am speaking to immediately starts to tell me about some pain that they are or have experienced. I finally just quit talking and empathized with them. My family has seen me at my worst and I hope that nobody else ever does. My wish for us all is to be pain free!

A huge binder clip on my left cheek. Acid in my eyes. A racing strip of migrane from the back of my head to the front. A pin sticking into the end of my nose. My tooth being pulled out. A giant squeezing my brain. No one can comprehend unless they have it.

I used to tell people it’s like an angry leprechaun striking me with his pot full of gold repeatly in the face till its hamburger, and then after he’s done he runs off, flips me off, and yells f@@@ you. After silently laughing at the look on their face. I would then tell the it is the worse pain you could ever know and Id described it with the usual ways. Besides the likely hood of anyone no matter how I describe it will never understand or understand completely. My husband is the only one who has seen it at its very worse pain level, and still he acknowledges that he does not fully understand the amount of pain. I’m tired of explaining it to people and either they think it’s not that bad no matter how I explain it or they start telling me how their pain is worse or whatever. Most of the time I just tell people it’s one of the most intense pains known to man and the other name for TN is the suicide disease for a reason, and leave it at that. At this point I’d rather save my energy for other things.

OK, how many of you hear "Oh I get headaches too" if you try to describe your pain? It is almost impossible to explain but a great friend of mine once said "Jackie no one should suffer pain like you do" I told her thousands do, every day.

I get that too or they’ll talk about a tooth ache. I hate to say but I’m unsympathetic about their headaches or tooth aches any more.

Me too!

I am actually more sympathetic about anyone's pain. I can tell them how bad TN pain is but any pain is awful. However, if they minimize my pain, my empathy is gone. I don't like playing the mine is bigger than yours game but if they say something like "it can't be that bad", I am not kind about telling them off. Most are respectful though and some really want to know. Can you imagine the people out there that are not in a position to get the meds we do? (I know that meds don't work for many here as well.)

Pain of any kind puts you in a horrible mood. Though this pain is called the suicide disease for a reason. Only that when you are going through a migraine, a broken limb etc it feels as if that pain is the worst. I have had both and I would choose either before this, if I had a choice. The only pain I would liken it to though not quite as bad would be a shot to between the toes (for surgery on a toenail) but that at least stopped and never made me cry as an adult.

I would think severe burns would be the worst pain, but often times they put burn patients in a coma, or the burns have burned the nerves away. But I have never met someone who had both to ask.

Wow, Sue! I know exactly what you are talking about, except the pins are jabbed into the side of my nose so that anytime I try to wear glasses... OWWWW! I bet you are also familiar with "the look", when you describe your symptoms to a non-TNer they give you a look that could either mean anything from, "you're exaggerating" to "you're NUTS!"



Sue Richey said:

A huge binder clip on my left cheek. Acid in my eyes. A racing strip of migrane from the back of my head to the front. A pin sticking into the end of my nose. My tooth being pulled out. A giant squeezing my brain. No one can comprehend unless they have it.

I used to describe it as being hit by a cattle prod. I actually own a cattle prod (We have a goat ranch) so I decided to try it on myself. I now know an electric prod is NOTHING compared to TN pain! I wish it did only feel like a cattle prod!

Now I describe one aspect of the pain as having a mad hornet in my mouth while someone is trying to drill through my cheekbone or temple to make an escape route for the hornet.

I try to use this imagery as a tool during the really bad attacks. I lie down on my good side with my bad side facing the ceiling. I try to imagine that the hornet has found its way down my throat and into my Eustachian tube, from there it calmly crawls out through my ear and flies away. I would never tell this to a "normal" person, of course! I believe the mind is very powerful, because this actually helps me. No the pain doesn't instantly go away, but I find this kind of self-hypnosis keeps my adrenalin down during an attack.

jackie - i agree with EACH word you wrote.

i know the same 2 samples you said.



Jackie said:

OK, how many of you hear "Oh I get headaches too" if you try to describe your pain? It is almost impossible to explain but a great friend of mine once said "Jackie no one should suffer pain like you do" I told her thousands do, every day.

1. first - that is why i don't like so much to describe pain.

when doctors ask to decribe your pain as "burning/pressuring etc." i sometimes just said "pain". don't know how to describe it. if i don't really know to describe it - does it mean there is no pain ?

whan you knock your finger toe on a table - it hurts. how would you desribe the pain ? ice pick ? ligening ? pressure ? NO - IT JUST HURTS.

2. there is a VERY famous proffessor doctor here in israel.. that also has a radio program. and the last week many go on air and talk about facial pain.

he has a theory that can be quite upsetting - (even if it sounds beutiful and right).

he say - that if a person describe the pain as "eating him from inside" it reflects than somthing in LIFE is eating him.

it the pain is "driving him mad" - something in life drving him mad.

i simplyfied that theory.

but it's SOOOO annoying.

i know each and everyone of us here - has a share of promlems. many lack of self love.. maybe problems in life - but it doesnt' CAUSE the pain.

you can ask everyone in life "what's EATING you".

so this proffessor theory is quite upsetting . and i wish med people would try to find the REAL reasons for body aching and not relate EVERYTHING to mental states.

stabbing ice pick in my ear the pain travels three paths. taking about 10-15minutes per "attack" one goes up and the other two go down each row of teeth causing excruciating tooth aches on EACH one all the while and finally FINALLY comes down and off the bottom of my chin. the pain can get so intense i literally want to pass out

i have described it in relation to childbirth; but the contractions are across my face

they come on both sides. sometimes they are RELENTLESS. my worse episode they came over and over from December until June until the massive medications finally finally slowed them down; i slept sitting up for months as laying down would trigger

ugh hate to even think about it


and that "suicide disease" part...well I have never been suicidal (thank You God) but having these attacks and the physical pain as well as the despair and hopelessness one experiences is the closest I have ever come to understanding why someone might take their life :(

Well along with a busted cheek bone, swallowing a porcupine,, having hot prongs for teeth roots, and a screwdriver stuck in my face. I have added gravel embedded in my face. I think tho I have actually had that happen in my hand before. It's funny I was actually thinking about this yesterday if I had this happen to me physically. AND yep. I did. AND yes it does feel the same..minus the blood!! The stinging is there and the burning. It's really the only way , you have to describe things to people, because it invisible. I have also described the burning on my chin as someone taking a piece of glass and cutting it over and over.

Thank goodness the amitriptyline got rid of that!!!

A patient with whom I talked a few years ago compared the sharp jabs of TN Type 1 with being repeatedly stabbed by an eight foot tall demon with a red-hot poker (fireplace implement) freshly removed from a brazier of coals. That analogy was used in one of the appendices of Striking Back - The Trigeminal Neuralgia Handbook, to which I contributed in its first edition.

Regards, Red

The professor is either full of stuff and nonsense, or full of himself and his own unchecked ego. There is NO medical evidence that any form or neurological pain is caused by mental state, even though sensitivity to pain can be increased by untreated depression. Last year, I was among several challengers to the American Psychiatric Association on their definitions for "complex somatoform symptom disorder" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In my view, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS Psychogenic PAIN!" Conversion Disorder (the experience of frustration as physical symptoms of illness) is also a mythology spread by psychologists who have a financial self-interest in treating this fictitious disorder.

Regards, Red



Nir Morita said:


2. there is a VERY famous proffessor doctor here in israel.. that also has a radio program. and the last week many go on air and talk about facial pain.

he has a theory that can be quite upsetting - (even if it sounds beutiful and right).

he say - that if a person describe the pain as "eating him from inside" it reflects than somthing in LIFE is eating him.

it the pain is "driving him mad" - something in life drving him mad.

i simplyfied that theory.

but it's SOOOO annoying.

i know each and everyone of us here - has a share of promlems. many lack of self love.. maybe problems in life - but it doesnt' CAUSE the pain.

you can ask everyone in life "what's EATING you".

so this proffessor theory is quite upsetting . and i wish med people would try to find the REAL reasons for body aching and not relate EVERYTHING to mental states.

I've been thinking about this discussion since it was originally posted and now that Red has revived it with a reply I think I will post to.

Lots of replies indicate thier description is from real experience. Someone described a cattle prod, which they tried on their farm, some, like me, describe cutting, knives, razors, etc - we have all experienced a cut before. Some described burns - who hasn't burned themselves before? some of us have experienced an accidental electrical jolt. And the descriptions go on.

I think we draw on these experiences and then the descriptions elaborate into some non-real mental images. I think what we are trying to do is differentiate between the nature of the pain. There is a distinct difference between a shock, cut or slice, stab, burn, etc. Our descriptions are a way of differentiating what we feel and just how bad that feeling is.

So how bad is the burn? Is it like the kitchen burn we have experienced or is it more like we would imagine a branding burn? Obviously we can distinguish that based on our experience with the kitchen burn.

I think professionals should not discount our mental images as they are based on our real-world experiences

The other day I used this analogy to a family member who was trying to sympathize and said “she understood my pain, as she had a toothache”
*note I never usually comment or play the who’s pain is worse game, BUT I have been suffering lately…No excuse, but I was done!

I said " really? My pain right at this very moment feels like I have 6 elves in my mouth each with a wrench twisting and hammering away at each tooth, there’s also an ice pick stabbing continuously in my ear, and my gums feel like aluminum foil on teeth! "

Uhm, I don’t know where the elves came from? Lol maybe they’re small enough to fit in my mouth? Ha ha!