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*edited to add*  Mods, if you think this is better in different forum category, feel free to move it.

 

I often hear people mention things like "I have a really high pain tolerance" but I'm not really sure how to imagine their experience with that or how to think about what "pain tolerance" means in general.  

 

I'm curious because based on what I read and hear others say, it could be said that I have an extremely low pain tolerance.  Or maybe that I'm oversensitive or overreactive to pain stimuli or something along those lines.  I've always had a hard time communicating about pain.  And I think that communication difficulty contributes to my panic in medically-induced pain situations.

 

Stupid little things hurt.  As a REALLY stupid example, apparently most people feel nothing when being bitten by a mosquito or flea and only maybe notice a little itching later on.  I feel a really sharp pain, enough to be totally distracted from whatever I'm doing, and look down to see the critter still sucking on me, giving me ample time to kill the thing.  I really do feel a piercing pain every time.  And we have mosquitoes year-round here so its a multiple times daily occurrence for me.  It doesn't matter that I'm used to it, its still pain and I still feel a mild panic at being "attacked" every single time.  (its exhausting to feel that way)

 

Someone sent me links to a few articles about new medical needle technology apparently based on a mosquito's proboscis: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924424710000737?np=y  Its supposed to be marketed as "a relatively painless" needle.  Which is of little comfort to me who feels sharp pain when an actual tiny mosquito is biting me!   :glare:

 

I'm the same person who has started threads before asking about handling needle/blood anxiety at the doctor's office.  (A TB test makes me cold-sweat nervous, I'll sometime pass out after blood tests, and I had a full-blown panic attack when unexpectedly confronted with an IV insertion)

 

I guess I'm looking to gauge how extreme my pain and panic perceptions are so I can better communicate my problems and needs to unfamiliar medical staff.  (constant on/off insurance changes means constant provider changes)  I don't really know where I am in the relative scheme of things.  I don't want to sound like I'm crazily blowing stuff out of proportion, but I don't want to give the wrong impression that everything's cool, then spring a messy panic attack on an unsuspecting staff.  I've tried some of the things people suggested to me on another thread and usually the staff still seemed skeptical and kind of impatient with me.  Or they start baby-talking me like a 4 year old.  Maybe I just need more practice using your suggestions.  I'm apparently still communicating poorly.  How do I present myself as needing gentle care but not coming off as an overemotional incompetent fool?

 

Sigh.  I just want to be able to get through routine shit like a blood draw with both mine and the medical staff's patience, sanity, and dignity fully intact for once.  

Edited by CirclesOfConfusion
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I think that when encountering new medical staff, regardless if you have a high or low pain tolerance, maybe you can let them know how sensitive you are to needles etc.  If they don't take you seriously then IMO that is their problem.  At least you let them know what you can tolerate and how you tolerate things.  It is up to them what they do with that information (whether they take you seriously or not).

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I have a high pain threshold, but I have a lot of practice. :violin: Now how exactly do you get to Carnegie Hall?

 

I walked around on a broken hip for 7 weeks without knowing it. I mean, it hurt, and I went to a dr., but he just gave me a Cortisone shot. Which hurt like a mother fucker, speaking of pain. But my job was physical labor (dog kennel), and it wasn't bad enough pain to make me stop, at first. But it got worse, and I finally took some time off work, and put myself on crutches (I have my own pair, I majored in orthopedic injuries in college (joke)). this time, I asked to see a different doctor, and he said if I had put myself on crutches, there was definitely something really wrong.

 

So I had an MRI. After the MRI, the tech came out and said to me: "Don't leave, we are trying to find your Dr." I've had a lot of MRIs, and that had never happened before, so I knew something was wrong, because the techs aren't allowed to give you results. They ended up showing the covering Dr. the MRI, and there was a big crack in the bone to the femoral head. None of my Drs. or nurses could believe I had walked on it for 7 weeks. They kept telling me I must have a really high tolerance for pain, so I'll take their word for it. They made me have surgery the next morning, because they were afraid the bone might perforate my femoral artery.

 

Having a high pain tolerance can actually be dangerous, though. I never know I have a kidney infection until it suddenly gets really painful, and I feel like throwing up, and get the chills, seemingly out of nowhere. I present very well, so Drs. don't tend to believe me until they see the labs. Then they get panicked. I have been told to tell Drs. that I "present late," but all of them have waved off that info with irritation, because I don't seem to be in that much pain, and kidney infections are notoriously painful. They were always shocked when they saw my counts.

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That's an interesting way of looking at it, I have never thought of it that way. There is a lot of truth to what you say.

 

Still, the high threshold keeps me a *little* functional during some migraines, so I can drive to the grocery store (1.5 miles) or things like that. I'm a raving bitch the entire time I am doing it, though. One of the nurses when I was in the hospital in January was very suspicious of me, because I could surf or watch tv during migraines, and I am supposed to be curled in the fetal position in a dark room.

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My sister is like you, Circles. She just feels.

Because it's her and not me, I'm not entirely sure what she does. Her reactions tend to be more physical than panicky, but she has definitely had full-on tearful meltdowns when confronted with a blood test. Oh, and she's an adult, btw.

You might try mentioning "this has given me a panic attack in the past" whenever they mention it? If they don't believe you, that's their problem.

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Rosie, thanks for providing an example that I'm not alone with this perception of things.  I do wonder sometimes if I'm wrong and I'm just imagining things.

 

Also, I appreciate your description when you said "she just feels".  It really is just that simple yet impossible to describe in a precise way to anyone who doesn't personally have experience with it.  I get the idea that you seem to "get" it about as well as possible.

 

I only got concerned about "protecting" the medical staff from me when I almost kicked a doctor in the head.  Not from the floor :lol: I was up on an exam table.  She was trying to drain a cyst in a difficult location with a big needle and hadn't quite taken my panic warnings seriously enough.  I had even asked if this might merit a bit of a local anesthetic, if nothing else to buy her time so she wouldn't feel under pressure to do a somewhat invasive procedure on a live ticking time bomb of nerve endings.  I tried really hard to concentrate on breathing and not to look.  But I still jerked so hard that SHE yelped even louder than me.  I felt bad for doing that and really embarrassed.  Though I guess you're right, there's only so much I can do to protect them.  I try to tell myself that they've probably seen worse before.  I'm still worried about protecting ME from unnecessarily physically painful or emotionally scary jabs.  Or worse, getting poorer care because I come across as a major pain in the ass.

Edited by CirclesOfConfusion
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I have a high pain tolerance - unfortunately, the only way to accurately know this is to have gone through something that the average person would have gone to the emergency room for. Kind of a combination of denial and white knuckling it. I agree it can be dangerous - I had ovarian torsion (when I had a huge ovarian tumor that twisted and smothered my ovary and fallopian tube and cut off the blood supply to that part of my body - the analogous structure in the male body is the testicle, if any guys are reading this. I had to have surgery, and by the time I did, I lost my ovary, whereas if I'd acted sooner, there might have been a chance that it could have been saved). Most people in my situation think it's appendicitis and go to the ER - I walked around like that for months on end. Now I always wonder if I'm underestimating things when I get a headache, etc. 

 

Regarding your situation: a LOT of people have a hard time with needles. A LOT. Including people who otherwise have high pain tolerance. Any medical staff should be understanding and experienced with this. 

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Indigo has a good point. I probably would never have thought of it, but it is probably a good idea to see a neurologist.

 

I just remembered that when I was in the hospital (it was for treatment, not research), I had to have my IV moved a least once a day, for 6 days, and on two days it was moved twice. Because the medication they were dripping is corrosive to skin, my skin became brittle around the entry points of IVs pretty quickly. They started calling a particular nurse to put in my IVs because they said he does the best "sticks." Another nurse admiringly said that he even is asked to do a lot of pediatric sticks, and it is really hard to find a vein on a young child.

 

Say you have phobias, and ask for the nurse/tech that is the best at sticks. They have no real reason to refuse that kind of request, unless there is an administrative one, or some policy prohibiting it. You might have to wait a little longer, but this guy did not hurt; I only knew it went in because I felt the tube moving into my vein.

 

ETA: This just reminded me of when my father was a resident in internal medicine in St. Louis. The patients quickly decided he was the best at sticks. He told me he kept getting called away from other things, because another patient had asked for him. And after that, he became a psychiatrist, who never has to draw blood, or place an IV.

Edited by crtclms
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Indigo is probably right.  I should ask.  I know a good chunk of my problem at this point is psychological (the panic part) but it is definitely rooted in a certain degree of hypersensitivity.  Its a lifelong problem so the two parts are really tangled and confusing at this point.  I can't see any new doctors until September.  But when that time rolls around I'm already planning to check-in with a neurologist about the carpal tunnel problems he diagnosed last year so I can take that opportunity to inquire about this too.  

 

Crtclms, that's a good idea, to mention to them that I don't mind waiting longer for the person who does the best sticks.  I know medical staff are always pressed for time so if I can offer them my time to wait for them, I would feel better about asking for special favors.  

 

You mentioned something that made me realize I might be overreacting to the movement of, like you say the tube or other things, and mistakenly translating that sensation somewhere in my mind and labeling it "pain" instead.  That thought came up is because of an earlier realization that I was doing the same kind of faulty labeling to aspects of emotional pain.  (or just not labeling things at all so they had just piled up in a big heap of something unpleasant but not accurately identified)  I noticed that about myself back when I started trying to do DBT workbook exercises.  So, for a while now, I've been going back to the basics of just trying to name feelings properly to see if that helps to untangle certain roots of problems that have become layered upon each other.

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My husband is a lot like you, OP. He is very sensitive to pain & touch. With bug bites he not only feels the pain but the bite from any kind of mosquito or gnat swells.

 

Myself on the other hand is the complete opposite. An example would be that a friend of mine had to explain "foot pain" to me. The only way I perceived foot pain related to shoes is if my shoes are too small. I never guessed it had to do with any kind of flat bottom, not supportive or "no comfort" in shoes. That is kind of a lame example I think. But another example is that I have literally broken bones (fingers, toes and a foot) and have not noticed.

 

And the interesting thing about a neurologist and a low tolerance for pain, is that many more neurological issues have to do with a high tolerance of pain. It seems like one extreme or the other is somehow connected neurologically. It makes us have more in common than someone with a "normal" sense of pain and you ;)

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would consider myself to have a higher than average pain tolerance but it all depends on the type for me.

 

If it is ongoing body pain then I can take a lot, especially if I know what's coming. Cramps, chest pain (I get this a lot thanks to an ongoing investigation into a heart problem), broken toes (although nothing as serious as a broken hip!) etc.

 

If someone else is inflicting the pain then I can take hardly any, but I think a lot of that is all in my head. Come at me with a needle and I will hyperventilate and climb out of the nearest window. Needles are almost agony for me, but if I've ever stuck myself with a pin or needle then I hardly feel it. (I once got so worked up over the cervical cancer jab that I kept sticking myself with sewing needles to 'get used to the pain' which took no time at all because I hardly felt a thing), when it came to the nurse doing it it hurt loads in my opinion.

 

If the pain is unexpected, like a stubbed toe or someone tickling me then it will take me a few moments to adjust to the pain but then I'm fine. Although tickling is a no-go zone.

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I would say my pain tolerance is quite low - for most things. if I bump into something, I scream and it hurts for such a long time and I get a huge bruise. I can take needles no problem but I still get a tiny bit anxious about getting them. I give them all the time at work though and have no issue with that. It's a little different when you're the poker not the pokee. Though I have stabbed myself in the figer a few times by accident with needles and I scream like a baby and curse like a sailor. Yet when I chopped the end of my finger off in the meat slicer I didn't say a word. I held still for a deep femoral vein ultrasound and never said a word, tears streaming down my face, the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. I think it's the surprise pain that hurts the most/

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This is really interesting for me to hear about other people's pain perceptions of all sorts. Especially the widely varying ways that everyone reacts to "surprise" pain and anticipated pain. (I react particularly badly the anticipated variety).

Hearing other people's perspectives and feelings helps me feel better. I've always felt like a childish un-adult basket case because of the ways I have to warn medical professionals about my own sensitivities, fears, and easily triggered panic. Your feedback helps me to feel more "normalized" and less crazy about the practical need to actively manage these situations.

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I've been told I have a very high tolerance for pain (put off getting recurrent gallstones treated for five years) and nearly concurrently that I have a very low tolerance for pain (possible new physical diagnosis).  I think it really depends on the type of pain, but I also note that I am pretty sure one of the reasons that this new physical diagnosis is new is because I never really thought of chronic pain as something to pay attention to, rather than something to be distracted from.

 

As weird as this sounds, CoC, have you ever tried giving blood?  Or watching someone else do it?  I'm a big fan of exposure therapy, if you couldn't tell.  :P

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I suppose that you would consider my pain tolerance low and high.  Recently I had a hematoma on my femoral artery a few hours after angioplasty.  The nurse put pressure on it and warned me that it would hurt.  I laughed while she was doing it because it felt like a million little butterflies were tickling me.  I totally trolled my doctor when he was peeling off the bandage for my angioplasty.   I was up and weeding the flowerbeds less than a week after hernia surgery.

 

Needle sticks hurt unless I look away while they're doing it.  lol.  I can always feel when a flea has bitten me but never anything else.  Including multiple spiders.  That's my anecdotal information for the day.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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