Pain, or the fear of pain, is something that can hold us back from doing things we want to do. Getting a tattoo, eating spicy food or trying a new physical sport are all examples of things that people say they would ‘like’ to do, but have a fear of pain stopping them. It’s commonly known that people perceive pain differently; some experience pain more easily or from different things. In this article, we’ll be looking at how to increase your pain tolerance and the different doors this can unlock for you.
Pain Tolerance vs Pain Threshold
Often used interchangeably, these two things are actually quite different. Pain tolerance is the highest possible (perceived) level of pain a person is able to endure. Pain threshold, on the other hand, is the point at which a person begins to feel pain, basically the minimum and maximum levels of pain.
This is shown throughout everyday life as people are capable of doing things or withstanding things that others may not be able to. For example, some people may want to have a hot bath to relax, whereas for others the temperature could be too high and cause a burning sensation on the skin.
Ways to Increase Pain Tolerance
With some work, it is possible to increase your pain tolerance and improve your pain threshold. Here are some of the ways:
Depending on the style of yoga you choose to practise, you’ll be required to perform a combination of physical postures and breathing exercises along with learning how to have better control of your body and mind. According to a 2014 study, people who regularly practise yoga have reported higher pain tolerance than those who do not.
We all have the kneejerk response of saying “ow” when we are in pain, either from banging an elbow or burning your hand in hot water, but why? A 2015 study had participants take part of a cold pressor test – a pain tolerance test in which the subject submerges their hand in an ice old bucket of water for as long as possible – with some allowed to vocalise their pain with “ow” and some required to stay quiet. The subjects that vocalised their pain with “ow” were able to withstand more pain than those who kept quiet. Furthermore, the same test was conducted between those who said “ow” and a separate group that was allowed to curse. The findings saw that those who cursed were able to withstand higher levels of pain.
Biofeedback is a form of therapy that looks at enhancing a person’s knowledge of their own body, namely by attaching sensors to measure key body functions. This places a tangible result in the hands of the person as they can see exactly how their body responds to certain inputs. The idea of the therapy, is for the person to use this information to better manage certain body functions and performance along with managing pain better.
Biofeedback is currently used as an effective way to treat a variety of conditions such as asthma, chronic pain, high blood pressure and IBS. As the therapy is noninvasive and doesn’t require medications, some people prefer this method of treatment.
Mental imagery is a technique that refers to creating vivid mental pictures in your mind to assist with managing pain. This could include visualising your pain in your mind and shrinking that object. You could also imagine being somewhere nice, such as a warm bath or on a beach relaxing. Whatever you choose, detail is the key to increasing your pain tolerance as the focus of the brain is taken away from what is happening.
Benefit of Increased Pain Tolerance
Although pain is mostly a physical word, it can also hold great emotional value, after all, as many people say, pain is in the mind. It is mostly seen as something negative, the result of an injury or something similar, but pain can also be positive, the sign of a good workout, for example. In this instance, pain is a marker for success, something you’ve ‘achieved’, a reward for your hard work. Therefore, allowing yourself to lean into potentially painful situations, without the fear of pain, will allow you more control and freedom.
For example, if you are an athlete or play sports, then an increased pain tolerance will be beneficial. You won’t react to certain levels of pain that you once would have, allowing you to continue playing or training. Note: sometimes playing on an injury can do more harm than good, there’s a fine line between perseverance and stupidity.
Additionally, sports like airsoft and paintball, or martial arts, that almost guarantee a small level of pain, will become more accessible and you’ll worry less about participating. Airsoft rifles can be pretty powerful, but with higher pain tolerance, you’ll learn not to react.
Additionally, an increased pain tolerance will help from day to day, with everyday injuries being less of a problem than they once would have been. So what are you waiting for? Go outside, play some sport and experience the world without fear of pain!