Have you noticed that different people handle pain in very different ways? While our own observations tell us that is true, what really affects that? Does being male or female have anything to do with that? Being younger or older? And what affect does one’s general attitude have with pain?
Experts say pain is a very individual experience, making it difficult to compare one person’s pain with another’s. But research is giving us some pretty good clues as to why pain is experienced so differently.
Here’s what we know:
- Attitude and your mental state matters – “Those who focus on their pain tend to do poorly compared with those who have a proactive attitude and try to find ways to cope with their pain,” says Roger Chou, MD, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Pain can also lead to depression and anxiety, which can then make pain worse.
- Women recover from pain faster – Women tend to tolerate pain differently than men, using use more coping mechanisms and seeking treatment more quickly. Because of that, statistically, they tend to recover from pain faster than men.
- Active folks feel less pain – Exercise helps ease stiff joints, resulting in less pain. Activity can also strengthen muscles, helping with coordination and balance. So – active folks and those in shape tend to feel less pain, in general, than those who do not engage in regular activity.
- Working through pain – Although short rest may be prescribed for some pain, most medical experts say that complete bed rest is one of the worst things to do if you have an injury. If you’re not active, the body quickly becomes de-conditioned – causing even more pain when you eventually move.
- Weather can affect pain – Sometimes joint pain gets worse when it’s cold or raining. Experts think this is because the change in barometric pressure affects joint pressure.
- Is pain a natural part of aging? – Like wrinkles and graying hair, a few aches and pains are a part of nearly everyone’s life as we age. That said, older adults are more active today than ever before. Most of us should be able to lead relatively pain-free lives
Remember, even though pain is experienced differently from person to person, pain is the body’s best way of telling you that something is wrong. So do pay attention.