Some of us feel pain very intensely and some of us feel it to a lesser degree. At times, we feel pain intensely and at other times, we don’t.
According to experts, a number of different factors contribute to the way we experience pain, including genetics, the intensity of previously experienced pain, the way we metabolise medications, the circumstances in which we are experiencing pain and how our brains are ‘wired’.
There are even cultural, generational and gender differences in the experience and expression of pain.
Anaesthetist and Pain Specialist Dr Roger Tan says the severity of reported pain can depend on a number of factors.
“When I first meet a patient in hospital, I try to find out what might be contributing to their pain,” says Dr Tan.
“Depression, anxiety, receiving bad news, having had a bad sleep, and caffeine, nicotine and alcohol withdrawal can all increase the severity of pain a person might be feeling.”
Contrary to popular belief, the more intense pain experiences you have had in your life, the more sensitive you become to pain.
“People think you get tougher if you have been through extreme pain, like a debilitating accident or surgery, but in actual fact it can cause a heightened sensitivity to pain,” says Dr Tan.
This phenomenon is known as ‘central sensitisation’. The longer a person has had pain, the harder it is to reverse this phenomenon.
“If you have chronic pain and you are having surgery, you are likely to have more pain than someone who has not had chronic pain.”