Whether understood as sensation, perception, experience, or image, pain is caught within a conceptual bind. Like other modes of sensory and perceptual encounter, it undermines the linguistic and representational cannons of late twentieth century media and cultural theory by insisting on bodily processes, affect and sensation over language and meaning. To think of pain representationally as an object of meaning making processes elides the physical and affective forces that underpin it. On the other hand, pain is also constrained within biomedical knowledge and practice as a kind of signalling event within the body, warning of physical damage. And in its “aberrant” forms, such as chronic pain, phantom limb pain or collective trauma, it often defies or resists biomedical models and treatment. By always exceeding these domains, pain problematises them. This paper aims to think through pain as productive force as it operates across these distinct domains of science and aesthetics, image and culture by bringing together the neuroscience of nociception (the sensation and perception of pain) with contemporary theories of affect.