Pain tolerance

Pain tolerance

Pain tolerance is the amount of pain that a person can withstand before breaking down emotionally and/or physically.

Exposure to pain as tolerance booster - It is widely believed that exposing yourself to painful stimuli will increase your pain tolerance - i.e. increase your ability to handle pain by becoming more experienced with it. However, this is not true - in fact the more you expose yourself to pain, the more painful future exposures will be. Repeated exposure bombards pain synapses with repetitive input, increasing their responsiveness to later stimuli, through a process similar to learning. Therefore, although you may learn cognitive methods of coping with pain, these methods may not be sufficient to cope with the boosted response you will show to future painful stimuli. Because of this, it is advisable to try to give trauma victims (or any patient in pain) pain-killers (such as morphine)as soon as possible - to prevent pain sensitisation.

"An intense barrage of painful stimuli potentiates the cells responsive to pain so that they respond more vigorously to minor stimulation in the future."Ikeda, H., Heinke, B., Ruscheweyh, R., & Sandkůhler, J. (2003) Synaptic plasticity in spinal lamina 1 projection neurons that mediate hyperalgesia. "Science, 299," 1237 - 1240.]
James W. Kalat
"Biological Psychology", 9th edition, 2007, p. 212.

Kalat recommends you start taking morphine "before" surgery: "People who begin taking morphine before surgery need less of it afterward.Keefe, F. J., & France, C. R. (1999). Pain: Biopsychosocial mechanisms and management. "Current directions in psychoogical science, 8," 137 - 141.] Malmberg, A. B., Chen, C., Tonegawa, s. & Basbaum, A. I. (1997). Preserved acute pain and reduced neuropathic pain in mice lacking PKCΥ. "Science, 278, 279" - 283] " (P. 213)

Pain tolerance is distinct from a pain threshold. The minimum stimulus necessary to produce pain is the pain threshold. One's pain tolerance is the level of pain needed to force a person to 'give up'.


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