Why does my perception of pain vary?

Eric Olsen

Your mood can affect the way you feel and interpret pain. If you're angry or under stress, you're likely to be much more sensitive to pain than if you're in a good mood and relaxed. Thus, relaxation exercises are one of the most effective treatments for chronic pain. Your sense of control over the source of pain is also a factor in how you perceive the pain. Thus the pain of a grueling session of "tummy crunches" in an aerobics class might be perceived as tolerable, and even necessary or pleasurable, because you can always stop with the assurance that the pain will quickly diminish. But a toothache that's actually no more intense might seem excruciating because it's beyond your control to make the pain go away -- until you've seen the dentist, at least. 

Motivation is also a key factor in how we perceive pain. The same qualities of determination and dedication to goals that allow us to push ourselves to be active and train consistently are the very qualities that can lead us to push through pain to injury; exploring one's physical and mental limits can be one of the supreme joys of physical activity, but it's also one of its greatest dangers.

Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.