Short answer: Yes! Athletes, after all, subject themselves to physically demanding activities, so much so that they develop an adamant response to pain. In an article published in Men’s Journal, athletes who have undergone intense endurance training are better insulated from pain compared to those who are less into sports.
The training that athletes get is important to building stamina and coping with bodily stress. The only question now is this: Can non-athletes achieve a higher pain threshold?
Well, it depends on the types of activities you take up, as well as other factors. At any rate, being able to withstand severe pain is very much possible. Here are a few suggestions that make it seem so:
It All Starts with the Mind
Have you ever encountered the adage “mind over matter.” It’s a bit cliche but hear us out on this. This concept has been around for ages and has stirred interest among physiologists and psychologists. Before you discredit this as part of “New Age mumbo-jumbo”, numerous studies have been conducted to describe the viability of using the mind to overcome physical pain.
A study by Stanford University researchers suggests a correlation between thought and certain physiological reactions. While more has to be done to validate the study’s findings, it does provide us with a springboard for considering pain as a byproduct of a mind under pressure.
But how do we control pain using our thoughts? There are quite a lot of techniques that can help us train our minds to ignore pain or prevent the sensation of it from ever occurring. The most effective one by far is meditation. According to an article published in The Atlantic, the mind at rest reduces stress levels, thereby making it easier for patients of chronic pain to manage their conditions. That said, you might want to try finding a place where you can be at peace. If you suffer from frequent back pain, take the time to give your body some rest.
Again, these findings remain inconclusive, but they offer individuals a good start in building their tolerance to intense pain.
Exposure to Physical Activity
Athletes maintain a rigorous training program, so much so that they risk bodily injury in a bid to improve their performance. But given your own limitations, you might want to start off with simpler activities before you level up to more demanding fitness tasks.
You can get started by doing aerobic exercises. Fitness experts all seem to agree that certain physical activities can develop pain tolerance in the short term. And although exercise does not increase one’s pain threshold, it does improve pain relief and reduce the occurrence of chronic pain.
Then again, it’s still important to consult with a fitness expert about the right exercise routines to adopt that can bring out a higher tolerance to pain. Whatever you do, do it carefully or you will be needing the services of a foot & ankle surgeon. So, if you want to build your tolerance to pain, you have got to do it the right and safe way.
Using Mental Imagery
Let’s go back to the idea of “mind over matter.” Our thoughts are supposedly powerful enough to get rid of the sensation of pain. However, it takes a great deal of effort to train the brain to ignore painful stimuli. It doesn’t come off as easy, especially for people who are very sensitive to pain. Fortunately, there are certain strategies that are known to help people manage chronic pain.
One of these is the use of mental imagery. It might seem like a long shot, but there are scientific studies suggesting that, since pain is a personal experience, patients should be able to find unique ways to manage it. With mental imagery, you can support pain relief by directing the mind to focus elsewhere.
How does that work? It’s a simple matter of visualizing the absence of pain. If you injured your ankle while climbing the stairs, it helps to stop where you are and try to imagine the pain going away. For example, you can visualize pain as a balloon that is slowly being deflated. Associating this image with the pain allows you to cope with the sensation and provide you with temporary relief.
It takes time, but training your brain to ignore an injury can really help out in raising your tolerance to pain.
Pain is a part of life. It is necessary for our survival, warning us to steer clear of fatal dangers. But raising one’s pain tolerance is not necessarily denying this important part of being human.
Then again, being able to manage pain comes off as a skill that allows us to lead healthier lives and become stronger in facing life’s storms. Even if you are not an athlete, being able to withstand the effects of pain is still something you can strive for.