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Pain tolerance is the amount of pain that a person can withstand before breaking down emotionally and/or physically. Pain tolerance is distinct from a pain threshold (the minimum stimulus necessary to produce pain). A dolorimeter is an instrument used to measure pain tolerance.
Exposure to pain as tolerance booster
It is widely believed that regular exposure to painful stimuli will increase pain tolerance - i.e. increase the ability of the individual to handle pain by becoming more conditioned to it. However, this is not true - the greater exposure to pain will result in more painful future exposures. Repeated exposure bombards pain synapses with repetitive input, increasing their responsiveness to later stimuli, through a process similar to learning. Therefore, although the individual may learn cognitive methods of coping with pain, these methods may not be sufficient to cope with the boosted response to future painful stimuli.
"An intense barrage of painful stimuli potentiates the cells responsive to pain so that they respond more vigorously to minor stimulation in the future."
Factors affecting pain tolerance
Clinical studies by the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine found that "men had higher pain thresholds and tolerances and lower pain ratings than women". The study asked participants to submerge their hands in ice water (the cold pressor pain procedure) and were compensated financially for keeping their hand submerged. A similar study by the same journal focused on the effects of having individuals perform the ice water procedure while accompanied by another participant. Their results revealed that "Participants in the active support and passive support conditions reported less pain than participants in the alone and interaction conditions, regardless of whether they were paired with a friend or stranger. These data suggest that the presence of an individual who provides passive or active support reduces experimental pain."
- James W. Kalat Biological Psychology, 9th edition, 2007, p. 212.
- Ikeda, H., Heinke, B., Ruscheweyh, R., & Sandkůhler, J. (2003) Synaptic plasticity in spinal lamina 1 projection neurons that mediate hyperalgesia. Science, 299, 1237 - 1240.
- 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
- Daniel Lowery, Roger B. Fillingim, and Rex A. Wright (March/April 2003). Sex Differences and Incentive Effects on Perceptual and Cardiovascular Responses to Cold Pressor Pain. Psychosomatic Medicine 65:284-291 (2003) 65 (2).
- Staff Higher pain tolerance in males can't be bought. Eurekalert. URL accessed on 2008-12-02.
- Jennifer L. Brown, David Sheffield, Mark R. Leary, and Michael E. Robinson (March/April 2003). Social Support and Experimental Pain. Psychosomatic Medicine 65:276-283 (2003) 65 (2).
Pain and nociception
|Head and neck||
Jaw and mouth (Odynophagia ) • Ear (otalgia, otitis media, otitis externa) • Eye (glaucoma) • Head (headache, migraine, tension headache, cluster headache, cerebral aneurysm, sinusitis, meningitis) • Neck (atypical myocardial infarction)
Back (upper back, lower back, spinal disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, coccydynia) • Breast (perimenstrual, breast cancer) • Chest (myocardial infarction, gastroesophageal reflux disease, pancreatitis, hiatus hernia, aortic dissection, asymptomatic pulmonary embolism, Tietze's syndrome) • Shoulder (right side - cholecystitis)
Left and right upper quadrant (peptic ulcer disease, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, pancreatitis, cholecystitis, atypical myocardial infarction, abdominal aortic aneurysm, asymptomatic gastric cancer) • Left and right lower quadrant (appendicitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, diverticulitis, urolithiasis, pyelonephritis, colorectal cancer)
Small joints (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, gout, pseudogout • Large joints (osteoarthritis, septic arthritis, hemarthrosis, osteonecrosis) • Back joints (ankylosing spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease) • Other (psoriatic arthritis, Reiter's syndrome)
cold pressor test, congenital insensitivity to pain, dolorimeter, HSAN (Type I, II congenital sensory neuropathy, III familial dysautonomia, IV congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, V congenital insensitivity to pain with partial anhidrosis), neuralgia, pain asymbolia, pain disorder, paroxysmal extreme pain disorder • Allodynia, breakthrough pain, chronic pain, hyperalgesia, hypoalgesia, hyperpathia, phantom pain, referred pain
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