Is There a Connection between Smell and Pain?

There is a connection between smell and pain — in particular, the inability to experience both sensations. A condition known as congenital analgesia impairs the ability of people to recognize many types of odors and also inhibits the ability to feel pain. This is because the condition affects the function of the nervous system. An essential channel ion that is related to both smell and touch is missing, making the transmission of certain impulses through the nerves impossible. As a result, both a lack of odor perception and an inability to feel pain are experienced.

More facts about smell and pain:

  • Studies indicate that the ability of certain odors to trigger pain responses varies between genders. Women are much more likely to experience pain perception when exposed to certain scents, but men tend to remain unaffected.

  • One study conducted at the University of Saarland School of Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, focused on three subjects who were diagnosed with congenital analgesia and explored its effects on the other senses. Repeated exposure to certain scents did not result in any apparent pain, but people who did not have the condition would experience some level of pain upon exposure to certain odors.

  • People who have congenital analgesia are generally grouped into two categories. One group exhibits what is known as insensitivity and does not experience pain even when exposed to some sort of outside stimulation that normally inflicts pain. Patients who have an indifference to pain will recognize some degree of discomfort but will automatically ignore it, never flinching or attempting to withdraw from the cause of the pain.

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