What is Pain Tolerance?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 March 2020
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Pain tolerance is the term used to explain the amount of pain that someone can withstand before he or she suffers from an emotional or physical breakdown. Pain tolerance varies from person to person and can also vary depending on the emotional state that someone is in prior to the onset of the painful situation. In general, research indicates that men have a higher level of pain tolerance than women.

Pain tolerance is different than pain threshold. Pain threshold is the term used to describe the level of pain necessary to generate a painful response in an individual. Someone can have a very high pain threshold and a low level of pain tolerance, for example.

Some people mistakenly believe that pain tolerance can be boosted by exposure to pain. The idea makes sense, exposing the body to increasing levels of pain will help it build up immunity to the pain. In real life, however, just the opposite occurs. The body, once exposed to high levels of pain, becomes more sensitive to it. This makes the body’s response to pain more dramatic when exposed to pain in the future.


The risk of developing this extra-sensitive response to pain is the reason that treating pain quickly is a priority with trauma patients. By treating the pain early, the medical staff is better able to keep it under control for the duration of the patient’s recovery period. Medical studies have also suggested that administering pain medication to a patient before they undergo surgery allows the patient’s pain post surgery to be treated with lower levels of pain medication.

Pain and pain tolerance can have a huge effect on how patients respond to treatment. For this reason, the body’s response to pain is studied with great interest by researchers. One interesting piece of information learned through this research is that patients who are undergoing pain tolerate it much better if they have company. Whether the person who is with them during the painful event is a friend or a stranger, just the presence of another human helps reduces the level of pain that they perceive.


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Post 4

Interesting. I'm not sure about variations between sexes, but what may be of interest is the study between those who experience acute pain versus those of us who have chronic pain.

Personally I have pain 24/7, due to ankylosing spondylitis. I aim to take as few analgesics as possible as they can affect my ability to think clearly. However, I have to balance this with sufficient pain relief to work as normally as possible. I suspect that my tolerance to pain has increased as my condition has developed. How long I will have this, I don't know.

It has been suggested that chronic pain conditions of unknown etiology such as fibromyalgia may respond to antidepressants and anti-convulsives, which seems to indicate some kind of issue with brain chemistry and how the brain interprets pain signals.

Post 3

Sneakers41-Sometimes people that have a low tolerance level to pain also are susceptible to becoming addicted to the medication.

This pain addiction becomes so intense that it is a leading cause of drug addiction in the United States. Many of these pain killers are legal drugs that people become addicted to because they began taking them during legitimate circumstances like back surgeries.

Drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodine are powerful narcotics that are highly addictive. For example, Rush Limbaugh had a bout with Oxycontin addiction due to back surgery that he had. The drug was so powerful and so effective that he became addicted and had to go to a drug rehab.

Many so called Pain clinics are

sprouting out across the country and many are operating under the guise that they are managing their patient’s pain and offering medication, but many are under investigation because the incidents of drug overdoses due to pain medications are on the rise and many people are dying because of these overdoses.

There was little regulation in the past, but the State of Florida has passed measures that will tighten up standards for the pain medication administration in efforts to close down many of these places.

Post 2

Cupcake15-I know that when I had my daughter, I wanted an epidural because my pain tolerance was low because I did not know what to expect and was afraid of the pain.

I did not feel a thing and it was great. When I had my son, there were complications that only allowed me to have a small amount of pain medication and when I was in active labor and at the crowning stage, I felt all of the pain because I no longer had any more medication in my system.

It was so painful that I never forgot it. I did recover quickly and felt remarkably better after the delivery of my second child then my first

when I had all of the pain medications.

I recently read that red head pain tolerance is greater than their blond and brunette counterparts. Many people ask, “Do redheads have a higher pain tolerance?” I know that they it has to do with the gene that gave them the red hair and fair skin which also allows pain killers to work more effectively without any hindrance which occurs with people with brunette or brown hair.

Post 1

Pain tolerance is different for everyone. They say that women have a greater level of tolerance for pain then men.

Many women when having a baby decide on different levels of pain medication. Some decide that they want to manage their tolerance to pain by taking La Maze classes.

These classes teach expectant mother’s how to perform breathing exercises that actually manage their tolerance of pain.

The controlled breathing in these exercises allows more oxygen to go to the brain and release endorphins that are the body’s natural way of limiting pain.

This is the way to increase your pain tolerance. This is why many women seek to have a natural childbirth experience free of pain medications or other inventions. The experience actually leads to a faster recovery, but it does test your pain tolerance.

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