Do Some People Have Higher Pain Tolerance?

  • Medical Author:
    Standiford Helm II, MD

    Dr. Helm has been practicing interventional pain management since 1982. Dr. Helm is a diplomate of the American Board of Anesthesiology with subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine and of the American Board of Pain Medicine. Dr. Helm is a Fellow of Interventional Pain Practice (FIPP), the only certifying agency which tests the ability to perform interventional pain procedures. Dr. Helm is also an examiner for FIPP.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

Is it true that some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, is there a difference in pain tolerance or perception with gender?

Doctor's response

Pain is ultimately something that is perceived, and we have no objective way to measure it. Pain perception is the result of the processing of many factors within the body, so that the same pain stimulus can be perceived differently by different people and in different settings. One famous example was when soldiers injured during the invasion of Sicily during WWII were happy. Even though they had significant trauma, their joy at being out of the war overwhelmed everything. So, yes, depending upon the person and the setting, there are differences in pain perception. These differences are not determined by gender.

Medically reviewed by Wayne S. Blocker, MD; Board Certification in Obstetrics and Gynecology


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Reviewed on 9/8/2017