Triathletes Feel Less Pain October 11, 2013
Triathletes Feel Less Pain October 11, 2013

According to a new study out of Israel, triathletes may have a higher pain threshold and therefore feel less pain, or at least perceive it as less intense.

The study put 19 triathletes and 17 non-athletes through a battery of psychophysical pain tests including the application of a heating device to one arm and the submersion of the other in a cold water bath. The tests measured pain threshold, pain tolerance, and pain intensity.

Along with the physical tests, they also included questionnaires on attitudes towards pain where the triathletes reported fearing and worrying less about pain.

Results showed the triathletes perceived pain as less intense than the control group and also showed better ability to inhibit it.

Senior researcher Professor Ruth Defrin said, “triathletes rated pain lower in intensity, tolerated it longer, and inhibited it better than individuals in a control group. We think both physiological and psychological factors underlie these differences and help explain how triathletes are able to perform at such a high level.”

As to the reasons why the triathletes responded differently to pain stimuli, the researchers say it is most likely due to their intense training, having taught their bodies to respond in a certain way to pain.

Psychology also plays a big role, as the triathletes had less fear of pain or could better anticipate what the pain would feel like and therefore were less worried about it.

Further study is needed to determine if the triathletes feel less pain because they compete in triathlons or if they compete in triathlons because they feel and fear pain less.

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