Your Pain Level & How to Increase Pain Tolerance

February 11, 2019

Do you experience pain and consider yourself to have a pretty high pain tolerance? If you experience chronic pain, this is probably something you have experience with. It’s probably something you think about and talk about with your doctors often.

Your pain tolerance refers to the maximum amount of pain you can handle. Pain tolerance varies from person to other person’s sensitivity, and depends on complex interactions between your nerves and brain.


Feeling pain is an important experience. It’s your body’s way of letting you know there is a possible illness or injury you need to address. When you feel pain, nearby nerves send signals to your brain through your spinal cord. Your brain interprets this signal, from your spinal cord, as a sign of pain, which can increase your pain and set off protective reflexes.

For example, when you touch something very hot, your brain receives signals indicating pain. This can make you quickly pull your hand away, stopping the perception of pain, and mitigating any injury.

Many things can influence the complex system of communication between your brain and body, and how you tolerate pain, such as:

  • Genetics — Research suggests that your genes can affect how you perceive pain and how you respond to some pain medications.
  • Sex — For unknown reasons, females report longer-lasting and higher pain levels than males do.
  • Chronic illness — Over time, a chronic illness, such as migraines or fibromyalgia, can change your pain tolerance.
  • Mental illness — Pain is more often reported in people with certain conditions.
  • Stress — Being under a lot of stress can make pain feel more severe.
  • Social isolation — Social isolation may add to the experience of pain and decrease your pain tolerance.
  • Past experience — Previous experiences of pain can influence your pain tolerance.
  • Expectations — Your upbringing and learned coping strategies can affect how you react to painful experiences.


While all the factors listed above will play a part, there are some things you can do to try to manage pain, change how you perceive pain and even boost your pain tolerance.

  • Yoga mixes physical positions and postures with breathing exercises, meditation, and mental training. A 2014 study found that those who regularly practice yoga could tolerate more pain than those who didn’t. Participants also appeared to have more gray matter in parts of the brain related to pain processing, pain regulation, and attention.
  • Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can also raise pain tolerance and decrease pain perception. One study found that a moderate to vigorous cycling program significantly increased pain tolerance.
  • Mental imagery refers to creating vivid images in your mind, and it can be useful for some in managing pain. For example, the next time you’re in pain, imagine your pain as a hot, red, pulsating ball. Then, slowly shrink the ball in your mind and change it to a cool shade of blue.
  • Biofeedback is another option that can increase your awareness of how your body responds to stressors and other stimuli, such as pain. During a biofeedback session, you work with a therapist who teaches you how to use relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and mental exercises to override your body’s response to stress or pain.

The bottom line is that the experience of pain is complex, involving both physical and emotional, pain receptors. Although you can’t always change the source of your pain, there are ways you can alter your perception of it to help manage your pain. The doctors at Southside Pain Specialists will be happy to talk with you about these options and others.


With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follows the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society. Southside Pain Specialists works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.