After thinking of pain management procedures and situations where people experience intense pain, I started to wonder, what determines a person’s pain tolerance? Research shows that it is a variety of factors. Depression and anxiety can make a person more sensitive to pain. Athletes can withstand more pain than people who do not exercise, and people who smoke or are obese report more pain.  

Biological factors that influence a person’s pain tolerance include genetics, injuries such as spinal cord damage, and chronic diseases such as diabetes that cause nerve damage and shape how we interpret pain. Genetically, a person might have inherited genes that allow them to break down the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and utilize endorphins more effectively, causing them to be more able to tolerate pain.

Obviously, one cannot always help the biological factors that affect their pain tolerance. However, it seems that there are psychological things that a person can do to increase their ability to effectively cope with pain. Some suggestions include positive self-talk, guided imagery where you breathe slowly and deeply while imagining a tranquil scene for 5-10 minutes a day, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is when one sits or lies quietly and notices their breathing without controlling it. If pain or thoughts interfere they should simply be noticed without trying to push them away. They should be thought of as a cloud passing over. Then one should return to observing the breath. This should be done for about 20 minutes. Everyone has their limits, but pain does not have to rule a person’s life, causing them to constantly feel anxious and worried that it will someday lead to them losing their mind. There is always hope.

Something else that may help with pain management is prayer. Praying the rosary is very meditative and can help on focus on God and their intentions as opposed to pain. It is sure to promote healing.