Objective Measurement of Pain Disparagement

Pain disparagement has proven elusive to measure objectively, since it is essentially a subjective experience. The question continues of whether we can rise out of the opinion pieces into rational science.


A new article suggests preliminary findings on identifiable characteristics of pain disparagement (PD). The new technique of study involves analysis of scientists’ reasoning methods on some unrelated topic, and using that data to extrapolate to the area of interest, (in much the same way some researchers extrapolate from acute pain to make generalizations about chronic pain).

This approach helps neuroscientists understand the psychological event which we call pain disparagement, aka reverse compassion. This important new area of brain research is anticipated to help explain non cognitive functioning in behaviorist pain researchers, particularly those preoccupied with catastrophizing among patients subject to chronic pain states, central pain in particular.

According to the subject article, there is shameful catastrophizing going on in snake bite victims, wherein any psychological penchant for suffering causes serious problems.

In recent research from Dr. Ukydyng Mi et al and colleagues in the psychology department at Munchhausen Medical School in Livonia, (See Eur. J. Neurolalia Sep 2006 Vol 52: pp. 2005-3999). thirty eight healthy young women were subjected to snake bites by Viperidae Crotalinae (Western Diamondback Rattlesnake). Questionnaires completed afterward showed that those who catastrophized the snake bites were more likely to have hemolysis, cytolysis and temporal summation of necrosis. Since any one or all three of these may be serious, or even fatal, an attempt was made to minimize the catastrophizing which would putatively make them worse.

Scientific quantification of bite severity was done using the Digital Analog Scale (victims rated their bites from 1-10). There was a statistically significant correlation (p>.00005) between those who gave their bites a rating of “10″ with severe reactions, including subsequent cardiac arrest and death. This catastrophizing was first treated by handing out teddy bears and hearing presentations by motivational speakers.

The researchers also employed conventional psychological testing and counseling to help the catastrophizers overcome the burden of acute and chronic envenomation. The paper received the Luneberg Distinguished Research Award for 2006, a First Place Award from the Helicoptering Beanie Society, and Honorable Mention for the Physicians sans Cognare Award. It will also be honored at the annual “Capsaicin Feels Great” ceremony to be held at Stonehenge during the equinox by the Euro Burro Neuro Bureau. During this celebration, behaviorists, most with PhD’s, make the wave while singing the official anthem, “You’re Lucky, You Could be Paralyzed”.

The authors noted, “We had studied catastrophizing with pain, but even we were surprised how much psychological overlay there is in snake bites. At least in pain, the cytokines, kinases, and neurotrophic factors give some scientific basis for the emotional component, but with snake bites, we are dealing with a single venom, not an entire array of pain cascade chemicals.” (No snakes in this study were harmed, none were subjected to any pain [morally unthinkable] and none displayed the all too human characteristic of catastrophizing).

The authors intend to extend their research on catastrophizing into acute and chronic hemorrhage, acute and chronic decapitation, and acute and chronic combustion. In future studies they intend to include functional MRI and PET/SPECT Tc99 scans to study areas of their own brains responsible for pain disparagement. Existing theory places pain disparagement in gluteocephalic tract afferents associated with the Limbic Pepe Circuit (Broca’s Rothwell area 52).