The minimum intensity of stimulation that causes sensation of pain refers to pain threshold. It is not a constant, as it can vary within own subject (depends on the body region, employee incentive, subjective and emotional factors) and also varies from one subject to another.
We differentiate threshold and perception because, as we have said, the fact of a stimulus to make us uncomfortable or painful not depends solely on our threshold of pain, but also a number of subjective factors that modulate the perception of pain.
The pain is useful
This is something that happens to us sometimes: pain us is useful for our day to day. You have altered sensitivity, or do not perceive pain, is a pathology. Acute pain has a biological function: let us know when there is danger. It is an alarm signal.
It prevents damage to tissues. Why we sometimes feel great pain (cut with a sheet of paper), but we see that there is no injury. The body warns you to activate withdrawal maneuvers, precisely to avoid the injury.
In case of discomfort or injury occur (for example, discomfort, or “flip” when doing exercise), body warns through pain, the need for rest or change of activity. The pain acts doing that you modify your behavior to avoid further damage and give time to the tissues and structures to recover.
It must also take into account that sometimes damage the tissue and not having there may be pain. For example, fractures of bones that go unnoticed, or breaks full of ankle or knee ligaments which do not generate pain. On these occasions have to attend other symptoms: difficulty moving or performing activities of daily living, swelling in the area, appearance of hematoma or other signs…
The perception of pain varies
And he does it depending on the person, of the moment, of the situation… We don’t always have the same perception of pain. If we are tired, sad, low energy… A stimulus can be painful (for example, hit in the foot by walking barefoot and collide with the bedside table, seems excruciating pain…).
However, if we are euphoric, motivated, active… A much stronger stimulus may not cause pain. For example, athletes celebrate a victory throwing one over the other, or patting is strong with joy, without greater consequences.
This is not simply by the moods, or depending on the person, but that there is at the level of the central and peripheral nervous system mechanisms that modify the perception of pain.
For example, we can cite the case of endorphins, those substances which we know that occur when doing physical exercise, and are partly responsible for that exercise help feel better and, in part, may improve symptoms in various pathologies (osteoarthritis, low back pain…).
Our daily activity and way of life, as well as attitudes and thoughts influence our perception of pain. A sedentary person with bad habits is less prepared to withstand. So it may seem that it has “the lowest pain threshold”. This person will be more likely to suffer discomfort if you make efforts. You can even suffer discomfort to perform certain daily activities (walking long distance, up and down stairs…).
However, an active person, used to make efforts, is less likely to suffer discomfort doing everyday activities. It is as if their “pain threshold” was higher, although this is not entirely true. Mostly what happens is your body (body and mind, so to speak) is more prepared to make efforts, and your alarm system (the pain) is not activated so easily.
By all that information that can give pain (type of pain, area where appear, intensity, duration…) is an element to take into account. We must not underestimate the warnings of this alarm system, therefore the importance of not train if we suspect lesion and aplicarr measures to prevent common injuries.
Physical exercise is an agent that can help change the perception of pain for good. This is one more reason to fight against sedentary lifestyles.
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- Butler D. explaining (Explain Pain) pain. Adelaide: Noigroup Publications; 2010.
- Torres R Cueco. The cervical spine: clinical syndromes and its manipulative treatment. Madrid: Editorial Médica Panamericana; 2008.