Have you ever wondered why elite endurance athletes appear immune to pain? No, it isn’t just because they binge on motivational books. In most cases, these athletes can withstand such high exertion levels because they have higher pain tolerance.
Pain tolerance is simply the maximum level of pain an individual can endure. Commonly, this is mistaken for pain threshold. Pain threshold is the least amount of discomfort you can be exposed to when you start experiencing pain.
My pain threshold and tolerance are different from yours. These margins are essentially determined by how your brain interacts comprehensively with your nerves. So here is the question I expect you to ask me at this point: “why is pain tolerance higher in some people and lower in others?”
Determinants of pain tolerance across individuals
Pain is intrinsic to your existence. Pain – as a sensation – is the effect of communication between your nerves and brain through the spinal cord conduit. Often, these nerves are interacting with their environment and transmitting signals to the brain accordingly. When you experience discomfort, the brain interprets the relayed signals as pain. This can be followed by an impulsive attempt to avoid the source of the pain.
This is why when you get in touch with a hot pot, you appear to withdraw your hand when you feel pain instinctively. So the extent to which you can bear this pain is defined by a host of factors delicately intermingling to shape the interaction between your body and brain.
The most common factors influencing pain tolerance include age, genetic, sex, stress, past experiences, and even mental illness.
Twin studies appreciably assert that genetic influences are responsible for half of the variances in chronic pain. Furthermore, studies reveal that gene polymorphisms influence the serotonergic and catecholaminergic systems. These systems are closely associated with Fibromyalgia (FM) and other chronic pain disorders like temporomandibular disorder (TMD).
Then comes the sex determinant. Studies show that women tend to bear pain more than men. There are also cases when individuals suffering chronic illnesses like migraines have their pain tolerance disrupted. When you are in an over-stressed situation, your pain sensitivity amplifies, making your pain feel more discomfiting, if not unbearable.
Amazing techniques to raise your pain tolerance
Great, having told you what essentially determines your pain tolerance, ride on with me, let me teach you how to hack your sensitivity to pain, allowing you to hike your resistance to pain.