Pain is never a nice things to experience, but it is one of the most useful bodily signals we have. It acts like an alarm system – sending an immediate message for highly harmful and potentially fatal conditions – so you know that when you touch that boiling hot pan, you should take your hand away very quickly.
Pain is also a highly subjective experience – people can experience different levels of pain in the same situation. So while some people tend to have a very low pain threshold – for example, needing anaesthetic when having dental cavities fixed – others seem to have no problem when they have teeth removed.
These individual differences seem to have a genetic basis, but there are also things that can help to “manipulate” the mind and change the way we feel pain – such as a sudden distraction. This could be as simple as making someone laugh, as this shifts attention away from the pain, helping to reduce its perceived intensity and unpleasantness.
And new research shows that as well as tricking the mind into feeling distracted from pain, the brain also seems to be able to be tricked into experiencing pain relief.
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