Why Do Some People Have Higher Pain Thresholds Than Others?

Dr. Carmen Green answers the question: 'Why Do Some Have High Pain Thresholds?'

ByCarmen R. Green, M.D., Director, Pain Research Division / Pain Medicine Research, University of Michigan Health System
November 11, 2008, 5:18 PM

— -- >Question: Why Do Some People Have Higher Pain Thresholds Than Others?

Answer: There are a number of differences that researchers have looked at as far as pain thresholds. Differences may be based on your age, your race, your gender.

If we focus on gender, we know that across the lifespan, women may experience pain very differently based upon where they are in their menstrual cycle. Such that, at certain times of a women's menstrual cycle, she may be more expressive of pain. She may be at more at risk for experiencing pain.

We also know that when we look at minorities, certain minorities may experience pain very differently than the Caucasian population, and there are areas of active research on this.

The elderly may also experience pain very differently. For instance, one of the things that we find is a challenge is, gosh, a person puts their hand in experimental pain model, they put their hand in cold water, they remove their hand when they can't tolerate it anymore, and all of a sudden you see varied differences based on whether someone is older, younger, minority, or woman, or man.

Although this active research is going on, no one has been able to really correlate that to the clinical pain experience. And one of the things, since there's no real pain-o-meter, is that this is an area of active research to find out how we can sort of quantitate pain and look at it across the spectrum.

Nonetheless, one thing that we absolutely know is that regardless of how experimental pain is shown or not shown that people have higher or lower thresholds for pain, we know that pain is undertreated.

Next: What Are Natural Narcotics And Can I Increase My Own Natural Narcotics?

Previous: How Does Chronic Pain Differ In Men And Women?

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events