Sensitivity to pain is complex, with wide individual variation. Barring operations or emergencies, many of us would rather not use medicine to control everyday pain.
UK scientists have discovered that pain sensitivity is controlled by a genetic dimmer switch, which can be re-set. The study could lead to new painkillers or lifestyle interventions, they report in Nature Communications.
Researchers at King's College, London found that twins sharing 100% of genes have different pain thresholds, which can potentially be altered. This means any difference between identical twins must be due to their environment or changes affecting the function of their genes.
To identify levels of sensitivity to pain, 25 pairs of identical twins were tested using a heat probe placed on the arm. Participants were asked to press a button when the heat became painful, which allowed the researchers to determine their pain thresholds. Chemical changes within nine genes involved in pain sensitivity were different in one twin but not in the identical sibling. The chemical changes act like a thermostat to set an individual's pain sensitivity.
It's no use complaining or decrying your lot. There are many pain coping techniques.
To prepare, it is important to learn how to use focus and deep breathing to relax the body. This takes practice, especially when you are in pain, but it is definitely worth it help you release muscle tension throughout the body and start to remove your attention from the pain.
This is a favorite technique to demonstrate how the mind can alter sensations in the body. Focus your attention on any specific non-painful part of the body. Imagine your hand warming up for instance. This will take the mind away from focusing on the real source of your pain.
Dissociate from pain
As the name implies, this chronic pain technique involves mentally separating the painful body part from the rest of the body. Perhaps see the body and mind as separate. For example, imagine your painful area on a chair across the room and tell it to stay there, far away from your mind.
Split the sensors
This technique involves dividing the sensation (pain, burning, pins and needles) into separate parts. For example, if your pain feels hot, focus just on the sensation of the heat and not on the hurting.
This involves imagining an injection of numbing anesthetic into the painful area. Then imagine a cooling ice pack placed over the area of pain.
Building on the mental anesthesia idea, this technique involves imagining your brain producing massive amount of endorphins, the natural pain relieving substance of the body, and sending them to the painful parts of your body.
In your mind, produce altered sensations, such as heat, cold, anesthetic, in a non-painful hand, and then place it on the painful area. Envision transferring this altered sensation into the painful area.
Sequence your age
Use your mind’s eye to project yourself forward or backward in time to when you are pain-free or experiencing much less pain. Then instruct yourself to act as if this image were true.
Use an emblem
Envision a symbol that represents your chronic pain. Maybe use a loud, irritating noise or a bright light bulb. Gradually reduce the irritating qualities of this symbol which will lessen the pain.
Focus your attention on a pleasant place where you feel carefree, safe and relaxed.
Silent counting is a good way to deal with painful episodes. Think of the many things you could count: breaths, shapes in the wallpaper, floor tiles, or simply conjure up mental images and count them.
Move your pain
Move chronic pain from one area of your body to another, where the pain is easier to cope with. For example, mentally move your pain along the bone to a part that doesn't hurt.
The method I used: meditation, which combined many of the techniques above. Over the years, I learned to accept the pain as part of me. I could concentrate on a spot slightly to the left of my forehead to dim the pain in times of stress. I didn't resort to medication, which did no good anyway. When the pain at night finally became overbearing, I went to the doctor. An ulcer had eaten away part of my bone. That's the strength of meditation.
I'm sure you must have a way of coping with your pain. I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.