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What Are Nociceptors?

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Updated July 24, 2009

Definition: Nociceptors are how we feel pain. Nociceptors are nerves that send pain signals to the brain and spinal cord. They have specialized receptors, or nerve endings that are triggered to fire by chemical changes in the body. Nociceptors detect temperature, pressure and stretching in and around their surrounding tissues. They are located throughout the body in the skin, internal organs, joints, muscles and tendons.

The two main kinds of pain detected by nociceptors are somatic pain and visceral pain. Somatic pain comes from the skin and deep tissues, while visceral pain originates in the internal organs.

Nociceptors fire when damage is detected, sending pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain. Once the damage has been healed, nociceptors should stop firing. Sometimes even after the initial damage has healed, nociceptors may continue to fire, which can lead to chronic pain.

Pronunciation: no-see-sep-tors
Also Known As: pain nerves
Examples:
In phantom limb pain, nociceptors continue to fire long after an amputated limb has been removed.
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