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The secret world of pain.

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About this work


Documentary looking at differing perceptions of pain. We meet a family who have abnormal sensations of pain and heat and a woman who has no sensation of pain whatsoever. Conversely, Rachel has complex regional pain syndrome which means that she feels more pain than most, even for very minor injuries. Maria Fitzgerald is conducting research into how experiences during the early weeks of life can affect the pain pathways later in life - Rachel was an extremely premature baby who underwent a lot of painful procedures early on in life and this might have affected how she is today. Jonathan Metz had to cut off his arm after it got trapped between two air vents in his basement; he claims that whilst doing it, he felt no pain. How can pain be so subjective? Irene Tracey is looking into how expectations of pain can actually cause pain; in particular anxiety can control our sensations of pain. Burns victim Caleb Springer suffered second and third degree burns to half his body following a motorbike accident. His burns and their treatment are excruciatingly painful. Hunter Hoffman is working on a distraction tactic for the times in which Caleb is undergoing treatment as he believes that this can lead a patient to become more oblivious to what's happening during the treatment. MRI scans show that this leads to 50% less sensations of pain. Rebecca Key is an artist who suffered a stroke and now has chronic pain down her left side. This sort of pain affects one in five people, having a huge impact on their lives; brain scans of people suffering with chronic pain show that the onslaught of constant pain causes structural changes in the brain. Turo Nurmikko has devised a treatment for chronic pain which involves sending electrical signals to her motor cortex to try and rewire her brain. He tests this out on Rebecca who gets temporary relief from her pain.


UK : BBC 2, 2011.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Broadcast on 31 January, 2011.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Sue Learoyd.

Copyright note




  • English

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