When You Step on a Nail

In the last post, we talked about our body's alarm system. We want that alarm to go off when we step on a rusty nail, so that we know something is wrong and we can take care of it. The alarm system sends a message up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain assesses the danger and produces pain so that we do something about the problem. You might want to read that sentence again, just to be sure your got it. 

We said there are miles and miles of nerves in our bodies that are crackling with electricity. Just goes to show we're alive. Do you remember how many miles of nerves? Check the last post for the answer.

                       Photo by  Nicole Klesy

                      Photo by Nicole Klesy

Have you ever stepped on a nail? I remember when I was a kid, about third grade, my mother and dad literally built a house out in the country. My dad would get off work around 4pm. He'd come home. We'd eat a quick supper and head to the country where he and my mother worked until midnight on the new house. My brother and I played in the yard, made see-saws from bricks and lumber, and explored the woods. I never remember falling asleep, but I always woke up back in my bed in our little house in town. 

The day I stepped on the nail, I was walking around what would be the carport. The nail pierced the bottom of  my tennis shoe into the fleshy part of my foot just below the toe base. I still remember the rush of electricity that shot through my body.

Do you remember your own adventure with a nail or a needle or a thumbtack? Leave me a comment below and tell me about it. 

The point to all of this is that our alarm system goes off when there is danger. Did the alarm system calm down immediately when I got the nail out of my foot? No, it hurt for about three or four days. Normal healing time for those tissues. Do you remember how long it took yours to calm down? But once the tissues were on their way to healing, the alarm system settled down, ready for the next emergency. That's how the alarm is supposed to work.

Here's the problem. In about 1 out of 4 people, the alarm system doesn't go down. It stays revved up, even after the tissues have healed. That's called chronic pain. In the next post, we'll explore this issue.