• Question: What is pain? and why do some people feel it emoticonal or phyiscally more than others?

    Asked by fi97 to Jo, Tim on 25 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Joanna Buckley

      Joanna Buckley answered on 25 Jun 2010:


      Hiya again Fi 🙂

      I’ve always been told that everyone has different pain thresholds so come can cope with pain and other’s can’t. I am a wimp! I’ll just get that out of the way before I answer!!

      In the case of emotional pain, some people are a little bit more emotional than others which is due to their hormones. Women cry about 5 x more than men.

      In the case of physical pain, this is an odd one… some people believe that you have a pain threshold. I don’t believe this because we all have the same no. of pain receptors. I think the trick is that some people can blank it out more than others 🙂

      I have an example. When you watch World’s Strongest Man on the telly (I’m not sure if you’re a fan but it’s amazing.. you should watch it when it’s on!) you see all these muscle-bound men lifting things and the look on their faces tells you they are in pain. Somehow they look very serene (well about as serene as you can carrying a car) and seem to be able to block the pain out and carry the car further.

    • Photo: Tim Craggs

      Tim Craggs answered on 25 Jun 2010:


      Hi again Fi,

      This is an excellent question. Some people are more sensitive to pain, tan others, they have a lower pain threshold. A while back there was some research reported about the different pain thresholds for redheads, but I have just been reading the reports about it and it all seems a little confusing.

      http://www.britishpainsociety.org/patient_faq.htm#q1 The British Pain Society has lots of really interesting stuff. Here is their definition of pain:

      1. What is pain?
      Often the cause of pain is obvious, a broken leg, or a bruise. But there are times when the source of pain is unseen, for example a slipped disc. Occasionally it is very difficult to find the exact cause of a person’s pain.

      Health professionals use different terms for different types of pain.

      * Short-term pain is called Acute Pain. An example is a sprained ankle.
      * Long-term is called Persistent or Chronic Pain. Back trouble or arthritis are examples.
      * Pain that comes and goes is called Recurrent or Intermittent Pain. A tooth ache could be one.

      Many acute pains are like an alarm telling us something is wrong. Most minor ones are easy to treat; others may be a sign of something more serious. For example the pain of a broken leg will make us rest the leg until it heals. Here the pain is helping.

      Persistent pain often serves no useful purpose. The messages from the warning system linked to long-term conditions like arthritis or back pain are not needed – just annoying. Over time, it may affect what we can do, our ability to work, our sleep patterns. It can have a strong negative effect on our family and friends too.

      Pain signals use the spinal cord and specialised nerve fibres to travel to our brain. This involves our whole body. It is more than just a network of wires. These fibres also work to process the pain signals. All together they work like a very powerful computer.

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