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article imageWhy Do People Feel Pain Differently?

By Carol Forsloff     Jun 12, 2009 in Health
“My back hurts today, “ I said. “ I think I'll lay down and talk with you later.” My friend responded, “ I think most of that's all in your head. When I don't feel good I just get busy.” Do people feel pain differently?
Most people have the experience of having pain at some time and hearing our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances tell us he or she has pain and doesn't complain and is able to function just fine. Indeed science says that's true. It turns out there are genetic differences in how people interpret pain. Some people actually do feel pain at a greater level than others do. The difference has to do with a number of interacting factors, according to researchers.
At the American Pain Society conference recently one of the speakers talked about pain differences specifically. Roger B. Fillingim, PhD, professor, University of Florida College of Dentistry, declares two patients undergoing the same surgery may report very different levels of postoperative pain. He declares doctors and scientists should not dismiss pain variability as a nuisance and recognize there are individual differences in how people perceive pain. That would be helpful in treatment approaches as well as in research.
“Though genetic influences are a significant force that determines someone’s response to pain, both genetic and nongenetic variables interact to influence the pain experience,” said Fillingim.
He went on to say these individualized differences in how people respond to pain should be studied within a broad bio-psychosocial perspective that includes age, sex, race and ethnicity and personality. Included with this should be situational variables like mood, stress, and cognitive processes. This is because all of these different factors interact to present individuals with different pain profiles.
The American Pain Society is not just a research organization or information's horse but also an advocacy group. They observe the pain is the most common reason Americans access the health care system. According to statistics related by this organization, 75 million Americans suffer from pain which is either chronic or acute. This drives up health care costs and causes lost income and lost productivity. You can also seriously impact a person's life. Understanding of pain is therefore very important, the society teaches.
Last year Robert Roy Britt editor of LiveScience wrote about five things people need to know about pain. They include:
1. Most scientists don’t understand pain and how it works. They admit it is complex but don’t know enough about the specifics of it.
2. Chronic pain actually shrinks the brain and can be physically and mentally demoralizing and debilitating. But studies show those with chronic pain also have brains that are 11% smaller than those who are non-sufferers.
3. Migraine sufferers have sexual desire 20 percent higher than those suffering from tension headaches. Scientists maintain the finding suggests the desire for sex and migraines
4. Women actually feel more pain because they have more nerve receptors than men. They feel pain in more places in their bodies and for longer periods.
5. It’s difficult to use animal studies, because many animals don’t feel pain the way humans do.
The solution to pain is to learn relaxation exercises which can change habits. Physical activity, according to medical practitioners and scientists is a natural pain remedy.
In the meantime a science looks for new solutions is likely important for people to understand that everyone feels pain differently and therefore recognize that what works for one person may not work for another when it comes to function in pain management.
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