This paper argues that the biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be. It is proposed that understanding what is currently known about the biology of pain requires a reconceptualisation of what pain actually is, and how it serves our livelihood.
There are four key points: (i) that pain does not provide a measure of the state of the tissues;(ii) that pain is modulated by many factors from across somatic, psychological and social domains; (iii) that the relationship between pain and the state of the tissues becomes less predictable as pain persists; and(iv) that pain can be conceptualised as a conscious correlate of the implicit perception that tissue is in danger. These issues raise conceptual and clinical implications, which are discussed with particular relevance to persistent pain.
Finally, this conceptualisation is used as a framework for one approach to understanding complex regional pain syndrome.