High tolerance for pain

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High tolerance for pain

Post by Farm_or » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:34 am

What makes some people tougher and more robust than others?

With the magic of youth, it's another thing to take for granted. But as we age and you realize some of the lingering effects of youthful exuberance, there is a great divide between people and their tolerance for pain. One extreme case in point is the opioid epidemic. The other extreme are the people who take nothing. I would like to remain in the nothing extreme.

So I have been been watching for awhile now. What are some of the sensical characteristics of those people whom appear to naturally have a high tolerance for pain? Is it genetic? Is it dietary? Is it it a training effect?

The good examples that I have observed are very active people. I am inclined to believe that the training effect is legitimate. As a runner, you are always experiencing pain at some point. The overload and cut back and ignoring pain gets easier. Does the brain cut off the annoying receptors from repetition and practice?

Putting the pepper jack cheese on on my omelette makes me wonder about the dietary factor. I know about the documented study of turmeric. Do other initial painful spices have a training effect?

Genetics? Maybe cultural influences are more important?

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by Dragline » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:31 am

All of the above.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by Toska2 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:27 pm

You forgot attitude. Some people don't like feeling pain. Others say life is about feeling and pain is a natural part of it.

Another is tolerance. The body produces natural pain killers. IMO you can override the body's production causing it to overcompensate in the other direction. Exercise has been proven to cause the body to produce these. I doubt that's why dad told me to walk it off though.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by enigmaT120 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 1:48 pm

My tolerance for self-inflicted pain/discomfort is much higher than it is for other-inflicted.

Isn't there some disease where basically you just hurt all of the time? Fibromalgia or the other one I hear about. One of those things with no obvious cause, so that the symptom basically is the disease. I used to wonder if that was just the opposite extreme, where the aches and pains I pay no attention to consume their attention.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by BRUTE » Sat Jan 28, 2017 3:54 pm

in addition to "all of the above", there are various types of pain that different humans seem to have varying tolerances for. blunt trauma, cutting, abrasion, heat, cold, expansion/pressure, joint, steady, pulsating, inflammation, electrical (== heat?), pressure, numbness..

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by classical_Liberal » Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:52 pm

Medically speaking, Gate Control Theory suggests we can increase our tolerance to pain very effectively.
The gate control theory of pain asserts that non-painful input closes the "gates" to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system. Therefore, stimulation by non-noxious input is able to suppress pain.
My anecdotal experience in the medical field tells me that people do experience pain very differently. Older adults seem to tolerate it better than younger adults & children, but this a a generalization not a rule. A psychological generalization I've noted; once someone knows there is a working remedy for pain (ie a medication that works), they seem less likely to use it. Just knowing it is there "in case" has a profound impact, this is likely related to enigmaT120's comment above. Most nurses I work with would indicate men have much lower pain tolerance than women:


As a male, I disagree. In practice... It's another correct anecdotal generalization.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:58 pm


I work with a guy who I would describe as white bread. He does what he has to, and no more. He puts a lot of effort into minimizing difficulty, and doesn't seem to be interested in putting the effort forth to have the really nice things happen.

On my scale of one to ten, he lives his life between 4-6. This means his awesome nights are going out for dinner, and if he gets stuck in traffic, it is a living hell.

Consequently, his pain tolerance is low, simply because no matter how mild, it isn't far from the worst he has ever experienced.

Broad experience allows a sense of perspective. Pain is always easier to deal with when you know you have been through worse.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by Campitor » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:58 pm


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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:05 am

I think chronic low-level pain can be more difficult to transcend than acute pain. Also, pain that is a sign that something really dangerous is going on is qualitatively different. For instance, I had appendicitis when I was 6 months pregnant, and that was worse than being in labor for 36 hours without pain killers or passing a kidney stone. Stone proof that I am seriously frugal would be that after being in labor 36 hours without pain-killers with my first baby, I signed up with the same nurse-midwife group for my second delivery, even though I knew that they wouldn't give me pain-killers, just so I could get 100% coverage on my insurance for the expenses.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by TheRedHare » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:46 pm

I have also wondered about this.

I've come across several people that all have very similar characteristics.

1. All of them were of a larger, thick-boned body and had a fair amount of fat on them; although they were not the obese fat we think of in the U.S.

2. Their range of emotion was very small. Most of them were pretty much monotone. They were hard to excite, or impress...or at least that's the impression they gave off.

3. Some of them were more reckless. They were usually getting into trouble, and would often do things in an extreme case.

4. They are somewhat immune to cold. These were the guys that would be wearing shorts and a t shirt in the dead of winter.

I did actually ask these guys over the years on these questions, and all of them would agree.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by thrifty++ » Mon Jan 30, 2017 3:59 am

I think pain tolerance can be affected by how disciplined your mind is, determining whether you can train your mind to veer away from the pain to think of other things or nothing.

I remember reading an article about a guy who suffered a really bad debilitating foot injury and who described meditating as a means of healing from the injury and how much of an impact it had on him to do so, to alleviate the suffering. I think meditating can probably help to train your mind to veer away from all manner of unpleasantness including pain. I really must engage in the practice of it more.

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Re: High tolerance for pain

Post by bryan » Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:28 am

Is there not a standard set of various pain threshold/tolerance tests out there somewhere? Sounds like another fun high score to shoot for.

I would assume the ERE crowd tend to lean towards "take nothing." I think the last time I took pain medication was after surgery to my clavicle.. though to my credit I was able to lift my arm over my head after breaking it without too much pain (my friend literally said "oh good, at least it's not broken" and I feel around for a bit and say "shouldn't I feel the bone here?").

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