Increase Pain Tolerance
No pain, no gain….as the old saying goes, but is this really true? To push yourself relentlessly to the point where you are actually creating unnecessary pain seems counter-intuitive as well as dangerous and should be avoided. But if you do experience pain, whether that’s in your workouts or everyday life, it is possible to positively improve your tolerance.
Simply put, pain tolerance is your body and mind’s ability to deal with any pain you may be experiencing, and we all have different abilities to cope. However, there are strategies, activities and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your own pain threshold. Whether you are a chronic sufferer or are looking to improve your ability to withstand discomfort that comes with intense training, check out our guide to increase your tolerance and kick that distracting pain to the curb.
1. Get Physical
When you are in the throes of pain, exercise is often the last thing you want to do but increasing your physical activity has been proven to help raise your pain tolerance. It is all thanks to the endorphins – or feelgood hormones – your body releases during exercise.
To really get the benefits, you need to do aerobic exercise at least three times a week for no less than 30 minutes at a time. The pace needs to be at a moderate to vigorous intensity. High-intensity workouts are ideal – short, sharp, shock sessions of HIIT or interval training will not only help to increase your pain threshold and your ability to tolerate physical pain but will also build resilience and prepare you for even tougher physical workouts if you are on a training program. Just make sure you have the right clothing and footwear or running shoes for the exercise you choose to do. And, don’t forget to ensure your body has sufficient recovery time between sessions to cope with the demands you are placing on it.
2. Say It As It Is!
Yup, we are giving you the ok to cuss! Vocalizing your response to pain can actually help you to tolerate its effects and often, the louder the better as you are also releasing any stress hormones that come as a direct result of your pain response. Even saying a simple ‘OW’ out loud can help but studies have shown that those who swear have a higher pain tolerance than those who say a more neutral word. It is believed to work as swearing is a way to change our mindset in dealing with pain. But do ration your cursing as over-doing the cussing or swearing at any little pain every day can actually reduce the effect!
3. Rethink Your Pain
As well as vocalizing your reaction, you can also influence how you think about your pain and reframe it in your mind to positively boost your tolerance. Mental imagery can be effective in managing pain levels by turning something negative into a much more positive image.
One way is to imagine your pain as a vivid red ball then slowly shrink the ball in your mind and change it to a cooler, calmer blue. Or when you experience pain, imagine you are in a lovely, warm bath that is soothing the negative sensation away. Whatever visual imagery you choose, rethink how you see your pain in your mind’s eye and regain some control by converting it into a positive, soothing or calm image can really help your tolerance.
4. Relaxation Strategies
Just as intense, physical exercise can build your resilience, taking time out to physically and mentally relax and recharge can also help you tolerate pain.
Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation can all be effective in boosting your ability to cope with pain. Regularly practicing yoga poses will not only keep your body flexible and conditioned but research has shown yoga can also boost the old grey matter, particularly relating to the processing and regulation of pain. Breathing exercises will calm and soothe your body and help to reduce stress levels brought on by pain, while a relaxed body has a higher pain tolerance – think about the breathing exercises pregnant women do when in labor. And, by using regular meditation, you can calm your mind and create tactics by which you can take your attention away from pain and onto something altogether more positive.
5. Monitor Your Pain Levels
To work on improving your resilience and tolerance, you need to know your body and so monitoring pain levels, especially during exercise or intense training will give you a clearer idea of its physical limits. The last thing you want to do is cause lasting damage because you chose to push your tolerance to pain too far. When exercising, give any pain or discomfort a rating from one to 10 – with one being the least and 10 the worst.
Some level of discomfort, aching, pain and soreness can be expected when training and by rating your pain, you can see improvements as you get fitter and your tolerance improves. But it’s important to also use this rating system as a red flag – a pain level of seven or above means you should stop and adjust your exercise type or intensity. And, if your pain levels are consistently in the ‘danger zone’ go have a chat with your doctor.
6. Make Some Simple Lifestyle Changes
There are several essential changes to your lifestyle you should also consider if you are looking to boost your resilience and increase your pain tolerance to a higher level. First stop is to look at your posture. A strong, straight and powerful posture can help you to have a higher tolerance to pain than a slumped, submissive posture. Stand tall, with your back straight, shoulders relaxed but square and your head raised and look ahead, and you will physically as well as mentally show you are ready to take on pain where it hurts!
Sleep is also essential to building resilience to pain as sleep deprivation can undermine your resolve and lower your tolerance levels. Being adequately rested and refreshed each day will help you to better cope with pain as well as anything else life can throw at you. Aim for seven to nine hours sleep a night and be consistent for the best outcome.
And finally, get social! A strong network of friends and a varied social circle will help you to build your pain tolerance and overall resilience. It’s down to those endorphins again, with more of these little fellas in your system you will feel happier and more emotionally balanced, which can only help to keep your pain levels firmly in the high tolerance box.