Pain tolerance linked to working out more?
Humans often experience pain as an unwelcome barrier.
But what if there was a way to break through those barriers?
What if physical activity held the key to unlocking a higher pain tolerance?
A new study reinforces that engaging in physical activities reduces chronic pain experience.
This article reveals pain tolerance, the factors affecting them, and how physical activity is associated with pain tolerance effect with a study supporting this concept.
Read on to uncover further insights.
Did You Know?
Your genes play a strong role in influencing your pain threshold.
Factors Influencing Pain Tolerance
Pain tolerance is the capacity of a person to handle or tolerate pain.
Individuals with higher pain tolerance can feel less pain than those with moderate or low pain tolerance.
A simple example is a person's ability to touch a hot surface. A person with higher tolerance can have higher exposure than others.
Some factors influence the pain tolerance of an individual.
Genetics has emerged as a significant factor in understanding the variation in pain tolerance among individuals.
Our genetic makeup plays a crucial role in determining how we perceive and respond to pain stimuli.
Studies have shown that certain genetic variations can affect the functioning of pain receptors, neurotransmitters, and inflammatory pathways, ultimately influencing our pain perception and tolerance levels.
Research strongly suggests that males and females differ in their responses to pain.
This is due to differences in the anatomy, genetic makeup, types and levels of hormones, nerve responses, etc., between males and females.
Environment and Lifestyle
Each of us possesses a unique lifestyle and varying levels of exposure to different experiences. For instance, people who smoke may be more sensitive to pain.
On the other hand, athletes have a higher pain tolerance.
It’s no secret that your mind and body are connected. So, anything that affects your mental health, including conditions like depression and anxiety, may increase pain sensitivity.
What Is The Relationship Between Pain Tolerance And Physical Activity?
Engaging in physical activities/exercises is associated with higher pain tolerance.
During exercise, the body releases chemical compounds known as endorphins.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.
They engage with specific parts of the brain, subsequently diminishing one's perception of pain.
This decrease in pain sensation through exercise is termed exercise-induced hypoplasia.
Furthermore, repeated exposure to discomfort during exercise might lead to adaptations in the central nervous system, resulting in enhanced pain tolerance.
However, the exact mechanisms behind this connection are not yet fully understood.
Did You Know?
Many aspects of our fitness, like injury risk, endurance potential, lung capacity, tendon strength, and pain tolerance, are influenced by our genes. Learning about how your genes impact fitness can be very helpful in achieving your fitness goals.
Active Lifestyle Boosts Pain Tolerance: The Study
According to a recently published study in PLOS ONE, higher levels of physical activity have been found to decrease or prevent chronic pain sensation.
This study was conducted by nine researchers affiliated with the Department of Pain, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway, and some centers in Norway.
The study included 10,732 Norwegian adults, 51% of whom were females.
The participants’ mean age was 55.8 years.
Pain tolerance: Study Design
The study measured two parameters: physical activity and pain tolerance.
The former was self-reported by the participants as “leisure-time physical activity,” which includes all physical activities done during the day, including exercise.
Pain tolerance was measured using a cold-pressor test (CPT) where the participants had to submerge their hands (till their wrists) in water (3°C) for as long as possible.
- Overall, male participants scored higher on the CPT - on average (93.6 seconds), compared to female participants (83.4 seconds).
- In both males and females, the study reported an increased pain tolerance with an increase in physical activity.
- Compared to the sedentary group, pain tolerance increased by 7%, 14%, and 16% for light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, respectively.
- CPT may not be the best measure of pain tolerance - the duration for which a person can tolerate exposure to cold water is not necessarily a fair way to measure their pain tolerance.
- Physical activity is self-reported - Both underestimation and overestimation of physical activity time and duration are possible with self-reporting. This can result in bias and inaccuracies.
Best Exercises To Improve Pain Tolerance
Certain workouts have shown promising results when it comes to improving pain tolerance through exercise. Here are some of the best exercises to consider:
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of intense exercise and brief recovery periods. This type of workout has been found to increase pain tolerance by stimulating the release of endorphins and improving overall cardiovascular fitness.
- Resistance training: Engaging in resistance training, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, can positively impact pain tolerance. By building muscle strength and endurance, resistance training helps condition the body to withstand discomfort more effectively.
- Aerobic training: Activities like running, cycling, or swimming that improves aerobic capacity can enhance pain tolerance. These exercises challenge the body's limits and promote adaptations that can increase the pain threshold.
- Mind-body exercises: Practices like yoga, tai chi, and Pilates combine physical movement with mindfulness and controlled breathing. These exercises enhance flexibility and strength, promote relaxation, reduce stress, and potentially improve pain tolerance.
- Progressive overload: Regardless of the specific exercise, gradually increasing the intensity, duration, or difficulty over time can help push your pain tolerance to new heights. Gradually challenging yourself while allowing adequate recovery ensures a safe and sustainable approach to improving pain tolerance.
Remember, it's important to listen to your body and start at an appropriate level of intensity that is best for your needs.
Consult a healthcare professional or fitness expert for any underlying health conditions or concerns.
Pain tolerance refers to a person's ability to endure or withstand pain.
Factors like age, gender, genetics, environment, and lifestyle factors might influence a person to experience pain tolerance.
A new study suggests that engaging in physical activity is associated with higher pain tolerance - the more intensity, the higher the pain tolerance.
Certain types of physical activities, like HIIT, resistance training, yoga, and tai-chi, in particular, are known to improve pain tolerance.