What Determines Your Pain Tolerance?
When it comes to tolerating pain, how tough are you? Research is starting to suggest that the answer lies not in your personality but in your genes and brain chemistry.
New data indicates that pain tolerance stems from individual variations in the human gene COMT (catechol-O-methyl transferase). We get a copy of COMP from each parent, carrying one of two amino acids: valine or methiorine. Most babies inherit some of each, giving them an average pain tolerance. Those with only valine-carrying genes can tolerate significantly more pain while those with only methiorine-carrying genes cannot tolerate much pain at all.
Is There Really “Pain Memory”?
Researchers have also learned that there are neurons in the body that actually retain “pain memory.” In some people, they are particularly active and the connections between them are very strong. For these individuals, even a mild body ailment feels truly painful. Something like short-term back injury pain requires weeks or even months of recuperation. And serious or chronic pain conditions – like fibromyalgia, neuropathy, carpal tunnel or rheumatoid arthritis – are absolutely intolerable.
What Creates Low Tolerance?
Experts agree that life experiences impact (and can lower) your ability to handle pain. For example:
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When pain strikes, a common response is to reach for over-the-counter relief, like aspirin or ibuprofen. Unfortunately, frequent use of these non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to serious medical risk, including internal bleeding, high blood pressure and liver damage.
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