Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's Your Pain Tolerance?

I went to my doctor the other day for a follow-up for my post knee surgery. For a few weeks my knee had been aching and causing me ongoing pain. It wasn't excruciating, but more just annoying and I found myself taking ibuprofen and icing it on a daily basis. When I told the doctor about my pain and asked what I could do to stop it, his response wasn't what I was hoping for. After reviewing my x-rays and notes from the surgery he said that I have a lot of arthritis in the area I had pain and that nothing more (other than knee replacement) could be done. He said every person's level of pain tolerance is different. He said he's seen much worse cases than mine, where the person had experienced very little to no pain. For some reason, what he said kind of hit me wrong, as I almost felt like he was saying, "Don't be a wimp!

Because of my doctor's statement, I started to investigate pain tolerance and why some have more tolerance to pain than others.

Here are some things I discovered:
One looks to the brain to get to the root of pain tolerance. Research has been done that claims the source is:
genetic - The gene that metabolizes, or breaks down, the neurotransmitter dopamine delivers signals from one brain cell to another, and so can theoretically proliferate pain signals throughout the nervous system.
psychological - Pain can be manifested in negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression and anger, to name a few. Psychology accounts for aspects of tolerance that genetics cannot: “mind over matter.” There is a possibility that two people can tolerate the same amount of pain, but that one voices their felt pain more readily than someone else.
gender-based - Researchers have found that estrogen can act as a natural painkiller. Higher estrogen levels result in a higher pain tolerance. Though genetics and psychology may play a part, a woman’s pain tolerance is not constant, but is subject to manipulations by hormones.

Pain tolerance is an intricate neurological output. Not only is one’s basic threshold for pain determined by the presence of certain forms of a gene, but it can be pushed one way or the other by changes in hormone levels and one can condition him/herself to live and work through the pain.

It is widely believed that regular exposure to painful stimuli will increase pain tolerance – i.e. increase the ability of the individual to handle pain by becoming more conditioned to it. However, in some cases there is evidence to support the theory that – the greater exposure to pain will result in more painful future exposures. Source

Basically, researchers are saying that those who live with more pain on a regular basis may actually be able to handle it better than those who only experience a little pain now and then.
So when someone (like my doctor) looks at me as if I'm weak for being in pain, I can look back at him with all the strength it takes to live with pain as my constant companion and ask, "Who here is stronger?"
This all made me think about how God allows pain in our lives and how we can actually grow and become stronger Christians through living with pain.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort." 

God isn't "the Father of constant happiness and joy." Paul assumes life includes suffering and pain. 

Joy comes from having a God who cares for us and stays with us no matter what.


Bible Verses about Pain and Suffering

I found this list of verses that confirmed that God uses pain in our lives to draw us to Him:

  • "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed." (1st Peter 4:12-13)
  • "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelations 21:4)
  • "This suffering is all part of the work God has given you. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
  • "Along with Paul, I stake my hope on resurrection, a time when Christ will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:21)
  • "I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength!"  (Philippians 4:13)
  • "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 2:9)
  • "Yet I am always with you; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  (Psalm 73:23-24, 26)
  • "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:3)
  • "Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelations 2:10)
  • "Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end." (Genesis 50:20)
  • "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

But, then another question came to mind:  
Why does it seem that God is distant when we hurt the most?  
We question why we experience so much pain that we can't get free of.
           "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
                How long will you hide your face from me?"
 (Psalm 13:1)

What are we to do with the pain in our lives, either physical or emotional? Especially those of us who have pain on a regular basis?

  • Knowing you are a child of God gives you the necessary preparations to follow His plan for your life. No matter what pain you experience, hold on to who God made you and look to Him for how to respond.
  1. First of all, see your doctor or a specialist. If there is a way to treat it, you need to try to get the help from those who are trained and qualified to treat the problem/symptoms.
  2. Ask, “How is my pain trying to define me?” Compare that label to who the Bible says Christians are, such as

This is what the Bible teaches.  It's the kind of persevering faith that the Bible heroes in Hebrews 11 lived out and that Christians today also live out.  We need the encouragement and teaching of Biblical heroes like these and the love of "Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:7) in the Body of Christ.  We need to depend upon our Good Shepherd who is with us in the valley of the shadow of death even when we don't feel Him.  Our Shepherd will leads us in the right path and provide us what we need.

  • Finally, determine and write down how you will respond to the painful experience. No matter how you feel, continue to seek God's peace and joy, and ask if it is His will, that He heals you (This delicate subject will be covered in a future post). If it's not His will, then pray that He gives you the strength and perseverance to be faithful and continue to seek Him.

I have many friends and family members that live in pain every day. This is not an easy road to go on. But, God never promised an easy life on this earth. The human body is intricate and can do many things, but it is also fallilble and mortal. From the day we are conceived, till the day we die, our bodies are destined for the grave. That is why, we ought to live every day to it's fullest, with a grateful heart, even when we suffer much!

 No matter what we experience, to God be the glory!~

Continuing in listing the blessings and gifts He has given me through the Joy Dare:
1,266 - Decorating for Easter/Spring.
1,267 - bbq pork chops
1,268 -A hard eucharisteo: texting with my son, who now lives 4 hours away.
1,269 - Buying spring bulbs...daffodils, crocus, tulips, and hyacinth.
1,270 - Being back in church, after being away for a couple of weeks.
1,271 - Going to the movies with my hubby.
1,272 -  Seeing a robin in my yard.


  1. Hi Ann, this is such a timely post for me, I especially love this bit: "Finally, determine and write down how you will respond to the painful experience." such a practical application of seeking out what the word says I should do. Thank you and God bless

    1. So glad this was an encouragement, Tracy! Same to you, friend in Christ!

  2. You are so right. Constant pain is a hard road. But then you reminded me:
    "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." (John 9:3)
    Christ says that pain is a privilege, a trust. Not one anyone wants to sign up for, though.
    I can't help but think about a claim I've often heard about pain--that you don't fight it once it's moved in and won't leave, but that you bring it in and work with and through it. If it is part of our life, it is part of our life.
    Do everything we can to alleviate it, then recognize the sovereign work of God. He is good, and there is something there for our benefit.
    God bless you, girl, for trying to find and understand what that is. It's not an easy road, but you take one step at a time in faith. God bless you.

    1. I agree. It's not something we invite, but I do believe God has called many to live with pain, as He draws them to Him for comfort and strength! "one step at a time" ~ so true!

  3. You have some great advice and tips for handling chronic pain here! I'm so sorry to hear you are having pain, but thank you for sharing your discoveries! Our response to the road we travel is crucial and knowing that God is with us along the way is such a comfort!

    Blessings, Joan

    1. thanks, Joan. I'm praying that the Lord touches the hearts of those who walk this road, also.

  4. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for linking to Wednesday's Word and for your comments.

    Your advice on pain management is good. Focusing on God and His Presence certainly can help with pain tolerance. REsting in Him.


    1. Good to hear from you again , Janis! May you have a blessed week, as well!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this!! I too am dealing with some (minor) pain of arthritis in my lower back, knee and elbow. Thankfully my threshold for pain is very high...I even gave birth twice with no medical intervention other than the doc catching the girls! :) What you say here about God and the pain He brings us is awesome.I particularly liked the part about how joy comes from God who cares for us no matter what!!! AMEN!!!! I hope and pray your physical pain eases up and I am happy to "meet" you! I will be back! So funny how our blog titles are so similar!! and what a blessing that you saw a robin in your yard...my yard is covered with about 3 inches of slushy snow. UGH!!!! but the blessing is that i have friday off from the classroom! :)

    1. So glad you stopped by, Faith! I know about the snow. The birds were singing in the sunshine yesterday and hiding from the snow covered ground again today! That's our Indiana weather for ya!

  6. Hi Ann, popped over after you visited me last week. Lovely to visit your beautifully inspiring blog. Pray your pain will be manageable. Hope you have a blessed Easter.

    1. Thanks, Wendy! Already, seeing God provide relief and comfort! Blessings to you, too!


I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave me a comment.