Send Pain Packing
Still, women can increase their tolerance by using their head. “Your pain threshold can be significantly altered by your emotions,” says Beverly E. Thorn, Ph.D., chair of psychology at The University of Alabama. “And over time, the brain can rewire itself to be more or less responsive to certain kinds of pain.” For example, women who choose to run long races with sore hamstrings, bum knees, or serious side cramps may experience less pain sensation because they actually want to be running–their positive attitude can overpower the brain’s danger signals and activate the pain-thwarting chemical serotonin.
Likewise, research shows that Olympic athletes can inure themselves to pain through strict mental perseverance and intense repetitive physical training. In other words, the more laps you swim, hills you bike, or miles you run, the more accustomed to pain–and immune to hurt–you can become.
Breathing exercises and self-talk also have been shown to reduce discomfort. Next time you’re up against big-time pain (e.g., getting a tetanus shot, having a tooth drilled, sitting through a meeting while you have a migraine), inhale slowly through your nose for 10 seconds while silently repeating a mantra like “It will get better soon” or “I’m not going to quit.” When you exhale, imagine you’re shooting all the achiness out through your nose.
Staying hydrated and eating fish, fruit, and veggies can help increase your pain tolerance.
Try to practice setting measurable goals (I’ll get through the next hour) and then consistently increase them (I’ll get through the next two hours) to encourage yourself to adjust mentally and physically to any harrowing hurt. “Once you start doing these things, they will become a habit and you’ll be able to tolerate pain better,” says Janet Taylor, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City.