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Pain Research and Management
Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 109-111

Pain: A Culturally Informed Experience

David Ng

University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


I was raised in North America - a culture and society in which the education emphasizes knowledge about science, its methods and its principles. The scientific method of understanding, coupled with the rudimentary knowledge that I was taught in high school biology, resulted in my conceptualization of pain as an objective truth. Pain, as I believed for a long time, was a bodily sensation with an expression that was more or less universal; to me, pain was simply the sensation that the brain experiences as a response to noxious stimuli. The pain sensation protects us from things that can hurt us; it is a warning sign that something in us is physically amiss. Thus, everybody physically reacts to the touch of a flame or experiences abdominal pain when there is appendicitis. Even now, in medical school, the pain education that I have received so far has only involved the physiology or mechanics of pain. Pain, as a physiological condition, operates independent of cultural context. However, in considering the experience of pain that my grandmother has endured, I realize that pain is much more than a mechanical bodily sensation effected by the nervous system in response to stimulus. Pain is a human experience, and as such, it is highly individualized and subjective. The proper diagnosis, care and treatment of pain necessitate a holistic understanding of pain, its physiology and its context (1).