A person’s pain tolerance refers to how much pain they can reasonably handle. Some people have a much higher pain tolerance than others.
The sensation of pain is the body’s natural response to the irritating stimuli it feels from the environment or elsewhere.
People with a high pain tolerance may not feel some sensations as harshly as others. While this is fine for some situations, there are also some risks.
Pain tolerance also plays a role in some chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia. There may also be some ways to increase pain tolerance for people with very low tolerance.
What is high pain tolerance?
Pain tolerance refers to how much pain a person can reasonably suffer. They still feel this sensation as painful, but the pain is tolerable.
A person with a high pain tolerance can cope with more pain than a person with an average or low pain tolerance.
The concept of ‘pain tolerance’ differs from a person’s ‘pain threshold’.
The pain threshold is the point at which a stimulus becomes painful. Pain threshold also varies from person to person.
A simple example of a pain threshold would be a situation that causes one person to suffer while having little or no effect on another.
In this example, pain tolerance would be the maximum coefficient of endurance a person can reasonably endure.
Another example would be temperature. The temperature at which hot or cold becomes painful will be a threshold at which the maximum temperature a person can withstand is their tolerance.
What causes high pain tolerance?
How and why a person experiences pain can vary greatly, and the nature of how people feel pain is complex. There are a number of factors that affect an individual’s pain tolerance levels;
Genes may play a role in some types of pain. One review states that researchers believe genetic factors play a role in up to 60% of responses to cold and pain. However, the study also notes that this varies greatly depending on the type of pain and stimulus the person is experiencing.
Age can influence certain pain experiences. As a simple example, a very young child will have a much lower pain tolerance than an adult.
A person’s gender may also play a role in pain tolerance. A 2016 study notes that pain may be more variable in women who tend to report increased pain sensitivity. A number of other factors seem to influence this difference, such as hormones, physical and neuronal differences in men and women, and social factors.
Pain expectation also plays a role in how people feel pain. A person who expects higher pain may feel more intense when the pain comes.
experience of pain
A person’s previous experiences with a pain can also shape how they will suffer in the future. Temperature is an example of this fact. A person who has moved to a very hot or very cold climate may feel these extreme temperatures harshly. After living in these conditions for a long time, they will likely adapt to these temperatures.
mental health issues
Some people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety may experience more pain.
Chronic diseases that cause pain can also lead to a type of hypersensitivity. People with chronic pain can become very sensitive to such pain, effectively reducing their pain tolerance.