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Mind Tricks for Relieving Pain

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Mind Tricks for Relieving Pain

Feel like a wuss when it comes to tolerating pain? Turns out you can up your threshold with a few simple mind tricks.

By Camille Noe Pagan, Women’s Health

Childbirth. Menstrual cramps. Migraines. If you were born with XX chromosomes, you’re probably well acquainted with all kinds of discomfort. Women are more likely to suffer chronic pain than men are, thanks in part to certain female-centric conditions (think: endometriosis, fibromyalgia). But new research shows that pain can be a mental game, and that you can up your tolerance by retraining your brain.

A World of Hurt

When you stub your toe or sprain your wrist, the millions of nerves in your skin and tissues register the sensation and carry it to your brain for decoding. Your mind gets the message and immediately shoots back a “danger!” signal in the form of a sharp ache. All of this happens in a matter of milliseconds and sends your body into fight-or-flight mode, which can cause rapid heartbeat, sweating, hyper-breathing, and lightning-speed reflexes (the reason you can whip your hand away from a hot stove), says Teresa D. Long, M.D., director of the Persistent Pain Management clinic at the University of Kansas Hospital.

The 7 symptoms you should not ignore.

How much you wince (or wail!) over that stubbed toe comes down, in part, to your parents’ ability to handle hurt, since one aspect of pain tolerance is genetic. (Researchers are still working out the particulars, but studies show that the gene that gives people red hair can also spell an increased sensitivity to pain.) Estrogen fluctuations also might play a role in magnifying aches, says family physician Rob Danoff, D.O., of the American Osteopathic Association.

“Boys and girls have similar pain detection until puberty,” he explains. “After that, the perception of pain seems to be more intense for women when estrogen levels drop, like right before menstruation.”

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Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice.

121 comments

+ add your own
7:04PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

Ta!

8:29AM PDT on Jun 6, 2011

thanks!

9:32AM PDT on May 27, 2011

noted

5:51AM PDT on May 26, 2011

Thanks

12:40AM PDT on May 23, 2011

Oh, my pain is constant, 24/7. There is NOTHING that can be done, and well, heat is about the best remedy.

2:47AM PDT on May 21, 2011

I absolutely HATE to take medication..so if there are medication-free remedies for pain (especially back), my ears are wide open! I must agree with article-exercise does help pain (walking is great when backache is the culprit)!

3:47PM PDT on May 20, 2011

thanks!!

10:16AM PDT on May 20, 2011

Have constant pain from fibro. Had it over 20 yrs, last 2 have been all but more than can tolorate. Figure pain threshold is shot now. No pain meds. work period. They ate up stomac linning. Tylonol, blue gell like Icy Hot is what gets me thru . I just live in pain so sleep more than needed. Need a dumpster just to clean house, the more done, the sicker I get.

3:10PM PDT on May 19, 2011

This was a great article and I do beleive that your pain tolorence is in your genes.I also beleive it is mind over matter on some things and the more you think about the pain the worse it gets.

10:15AM PDT on May 19, 2011

It was very painful reading this...

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