The Pain Experience
Everyone feels and reacts to pain differently. The way you process pain is shaped by many factors, including:
- Genes. Researchers are finding proof that your genes can make you more sensitive to pain but cause other people to respond differently to the pain experience.
- Gender. Women are diagnosed with chronic pain disorders more often than men. The pain disorder may be more severe and last longer in women. Women also have greater pain sensitivity, meaning they experience pain as more painful than men.
- Age. As you age, you are more likely to experience chronic pain and to have other medical problems that can make pain management harder. Children are prone to more pain-related distress, such as interpreting things as worse than they are (catastrophizing).
- Personality traits. Your independence, self-confidence, sense of humor, cheerfulness and ability to handle hardship can influence your experience of pain.
- Life before pain onset. Your previous or current medical conditions, reactions to pain experiences in the past (your pain memories) and your expectations about how healthy you will be in the future can affect how you manage pain.
- Economic status. Money challenges can influence pain symptoms and the likelihood of whether you may become disabled due to pain.
- Support systems and relationships. Healthy or difficult relationships can strengthen or weaken your ability to cope with pain. Pain can cause people to isolate themselves, and social isolation can compound your pain.
- Spiritual beliefs. Your faith and belief system can play a role in how you manage pain.
- Culture. Your culture and traditions can influence how you perceive or manage pain. Some cultures expect people to be brave and silent when dealing with pain, while other cultures may be more open about their struggles.
Pain can interfere with your ability to manage your home and work life, prevent you from getting enough sleep and affect your emotional health. It’s important to understand what is causing your pain and work with your health-care team to develop an effective management plan.