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Wimp or Warrior? Test Your Pain Tolerance

Wimp or Warrior? Test Your Pain Tolerance

Test your own pain tolerance by answering the questions below and adding up your score. Check all answer options that apply. You might need a pen and paper.
    I identify as:
    ⎕  a woman (2 pts.)
    ⎕  a man (1 pt.)
    I have a family history of pain:
    ⎕  on neither side (0 pt.)
    ⎕  on my mother’s side (1 pt.)
    ⎕  on my father’s side (1 pt.)
    I have experienced lingering pain:
    ⎕  almost never (0 pts.)
    ⎕  during early childhood (2 pts.)
    ⎕  throughout my teens (1 pt.)
    ⎕  starting in middle age (1 pt.)
    ⎕  all my adult life (1 pt.)
    As I child I experienced:
    ⎕  physical abuse (1 pt.)
    ⎕  emotional abuse (1 pt.)
    ⎕  sexual abuse (1 pt.)
    When I feel pain:
    ⎕  it hits suddenly but tends to fade fast (0 pts.)
    ⎕  strong or mild, it recurs periodically for weeks or months (1 pt.)
    ⎕  I almost never move past it completely (1 pt.)

      There was a time when people confused pain tolerance with willpower. Today we know that, in fact, a mix of genes, brain chemistry, and life experience determines how well each person tolerates physical discomfort.

      1. Does your sex contribute to pain tolerance?

      Yes. Contrary to common humor (at least among women), research shows that males generally have higher pain tolerance than females. They are also less likely to develop painful medical conditions, and report lower levels of pain than women, even when experiencing the same medical problem.

      Interesting, then, that women are under-treated for pain. Studies reveal that even when they complain about the same symptoms and similar pain levels, women are admitted to the hospital less often. And doctors are less likely to give them prescription pain relievers. 

      2. Is pain tolerance hereditary?

      Heredity seems to play a big role. In fact, studies indicate that pain tolerance is primarily the result of individual variations in the human gene “COMT” (catechol-o-methyltransferase).

      You get a copy of COMT from each parent, carrying one of two amino acids. Most babies inherit some of each, so they have an average pain tolerance. Those with only valine-carrying genes can tolerate a lot more pain while those with only methionine-carrying genes cannot tolerate much pain at all.

      3. Does your history of pain influence pain tolerance?

      Recent studies have found that the longer you live with pain, the more intensely you feel it. So, yes, a personal history of pain is another big factor in your pain tolerance.

      Because of the way our brains work, they can develop a kind of pain “habit.” Each time it perceives a particular discomfort, the brain becomes more inclined to feel it again. Faster and with equal intensity. This is true even if the physical cause has diminished.

      So the more times you feel a certain pain, the less stimulus you require to feel it again. For someone with a permanent pain condition this means that your pain level may stay the same even though your condition is medically under control.

      4. Is child abuse a factor in personal pain tolerance?

      Sadly, yes. Scientists have known for years that early trauma affects brain structure and development. So, it isn’t a shock to learn that physical, emotional, and/or sexual child abuse changes brain wave patterns. Over time those changes can create a permanent stress response.

      Studies also show that low pain tolerance and chronic pain may be a complication of that stress response. In other words, child abuse not only makes you more pain sensitive, it also makes you more likely to develop chronic pain.

      5. What role does “pain memory” play in pain tolerance?

      Scientists know there are cells throughout the body that actually retain “pain memory.” In some people, these cells are especially active, and the connections between them are very strong. For these folks, even a mild body ailment can activate unconscious memory, causing high levels of pain.

      It doesn’t take a lot to trigger that memory. Some experts say that pain lasting for more than just a few minutes can leave a permanent memory track. The longer it lasts, the more pain memory accumulates

      Bottom line: pain tolerance is real and it impacts your health

      Research shows that the phenomenon of Pain Tolerance is real. What’s more, it’s not a reflection of your personality. It’s not hysteria or psychological weakness. It’s based on biology as well as life experiences. And, like it or not, you gotta play the hand you’re dealt.

      When in pain, why not reach for some temporary, all-natural relief with Premiere’s Pain Spray or Pain Spray Roll-On.


      SCORE: 1-7 pts: You know what pain is, but you can tolerate it well. 8-11 pts: Pain sometimes puts a damper on life but you're usually able to overcome it. 12-16 pts: You deal with a lot of pain and often feel that you must work hard to keep it from diminishing the quality of your life.

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