Science Questions

Sun, 16th Jan 2005

Part of the show Cybernetics and Computer Vision


John asked:

I've got spondylitis of the spine and neck. A first-aider friend of mine suggested rubbing aftershave into the small of my back. I haven't tried it yet because I'm a bit suspicious. Do you think it will work?


I'm going to agree with your friend. If you hit your head on a wall, the first thing you'd do would be to rub it. In 1965, Patrick Wall and Ronald Melzack came up with the Gate Theory of Pain. It said that if you gently rub an area of skin, that kind of stimulus can 'gate' or stop the flow of pain up the spinal cord. That's why when you hit something your first instinct is to rub it. Apart from smelling really bad, what these treatments like deep heat get you to do is to rub the affected area. This might be why rubbing in aftershave might work. Some people have implants that control pain. (Kevin) Yes they do. Some people in continual pain, such with bad cases of arthritis, have the possibility of counteracting the pain with an implant that short-circuits the pain going up the spinal cord.


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