We all know people who can take pain or stress much better than we can, and others who cry out at the merest pinprick. We’ve heard stories of people who did heroic deeds despite horrible injuries, and stereotypes about women’s supposedly sensitivity to pain that don’t mesh with their ability to withstand childbirth’s pain. But what accounts for all these differences in how individuals feel and respond to pain? And why are some people, especially women, more frequently prone to disorders – like temporomandibular joint pain and fibromyalgia – that cause them to feel crippling pain day and night?
Patients with lower back pain that can’t be traced to a specific physical cause may have abnormal pain-processing pathways in their brains, according to a new study led by Michigan researchers. The effect, which as yet has no explanation, is similar to an altered pain perception effect in fibromyalgia patients recently reported by the same research team.