Pain Threshold

On an unusually hot and sunny afternoon last week, I was chatting to a fellow dog-walker when I felt an incredibly sharp pain at the back of my head. It was best described as being hit by an air-rifle pellet, or being stabbed by someone using a spike of some kind. I yelled loudly, and jumped forward, quickly turning to see if someone was behind me. The man I was talking to pointed to the space above my head, and declared, “It’s a horsefly”. I have had horsefly bites on my legs in the past, and they can be painful. But this one on my head was much worse, and was throbbing immediately.

I carried on with my walk, and by the time I got over the river onto Hoe Rough, the swelling was the size of an egg, and pulsing painfully. As I type this, I can still feel the remains of that hard lump above my right ear.

Yesterday afternoon, I was stepping into the bath, prior to getting ready to take Ollie out. As I did so, I caught the inside of my left leg on the edge of the bath. It was little more than a glancing blow, hardly even a ‘knock’. Yet it made me shout in pain so loudly, Ollie’s head appeared, to see what was happening. It was really painful, and by the time I was out of the bath and getting dried, there was a bruise appearing, the size of a coin.

I have been lucky so far in life. I have not had to have any major surgery, and have never broken an arm, leg, or even an ankle. There have been my fair share of falls, bumps, and cuts over the years, and I did break four fingers on my left hand in a very bad car accident when I was 32. But whatever injury I ever had, I never thought too much about it, and never once made a fuss.

So how is it that I suddenly have zero pain threshold for things like a small impact on my leg, or the bite of an insect? What changed along the way? I’m sure it cannot just be age, as I know older people who have bravely endured surgery or broken limbs quite recently. Is it my perception of pain that has altered, or can a body actually change how it registers levels of pain?

Whatever the reason, I don’t like it.

65 thoughts on “Pain Threshold

  1. Hi ete. Have broken a couple of ribs, my left foot and wrist. The wrist needed surgery; a plate and 5 pins. Its worked fine now for a decade. Got a pain in my hip two weeks ago. No time to see an orthopedic doc. I lived with it. Two wees and its better now. It takes bravery to face old age! stay well!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can usually take a knock or pain pretty well. Not long ago, I wouldn’t have even noticed knocking my leg against the bath. Might just be that I am focusing on things more lately. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.


  2. I do think there is something about how our sensitivity to pain may increase over time. Couple that with the annoying more common occurrence for things starting to hurt for no apparent reason, and it’s like we’re old cars whose warranty is almost up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I had used up my warranty when I decided to leave my job as an EMT and go to work for the police. I already had enough aches and pains then, and I was just 49. But small knocks and bumps have never given me so much trouble previously. I think I will have to accept that 68 is some kind of ‘crunch age’ for feeling pain. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ever since I have learnt counting I’ve had more Tetanus shots than I could count. Even though i was never into sports, I would trip and fall wherever I went. Ever since I was introduced to kitchen, knives and gas stove burns have been my constant companions. Once I began driving a scooter, i got a tetanus shot every 6 months (because this is the max time the last one is effective). Please note that I have never got a speeding ticket. I am a very careful driver. So, when I decided to learn to drive, I could only go as long as I was using the Driving School car. It had an extra break for the instructor. After that my father couldn’t risk it and he never let me lay my hands on his new car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you suffer so many injuries, Shaly, I hope that you don’t get the reduced pain threshold that has started to happen to me. Then again, having children is probably the most painful thing a woman can experience, and I never had to go through that. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.


  4. perhaps you need to build up your tolerance for pain again.

    As a kid, all the bumps and bruises may help us build up some kind of immunity. If we stop having so many bumps and bruises as we age, perhaps we lose that immunity.

    So my suggestion is to go out there and get some more bug bites and bum into things more often. Before you know it, you won’t be screaming out anymore… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  5. We call horse flies clegs and their bit is very unpleasant. My mother was allergic to their bite. Once, we’d been picking wild raspberries and she was bitten on her ring finger which started to swell so fast her rings disappeared from view. In the car she fainted and I thought she’d died and became hysterical while dad drove as fast as he could to the doctor. Fortunately, I haven’t inherited her allergy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We have a similar fly here….we call them deer flies….their bite is irritating but nothing like the egg size whelp…..wear a full face mask….sounds extreme but if it works… their a season for these flies? Be well and safe chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Horsefly season is normally only during a hot summer in Beetley. They don’t have many horses to bother now, so have changed to me instead. A mask wouldn’t have helped, as it got the back of my head. πŸ™‚ They are big, easily-seen flies, and they stick what looks like a tiny serrated-edge machete into you!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sometimes it depends on whether you’re distracted by anything else at the time as to the level of pain you feel. Pain is worse in the small hours when nothing else is going on. The skin becomes thinner as we get older, and maybe it doesn’t cushion us so much from knocks and bumps.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pain is strange. In my case, I think my tolerance for pain varies depending on the circumstances and how busy I am or how focused I might be on something else, but persistent pain is not something I am too good at managing, and I’m not sure age has helped me. I hope your pain threshold is not put to the test again any time soon, Pete. I see you’ve started a new serial. I must get my head into gear and catch up, but today I’m having a funny day already, so not much hope there. Keep safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m in agreement with β€œtolerance for pain varies depending on the circumstances and how busy I am or how focused I might be on something else,”….

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s been loads of studies on pain tolerance in ageing and they all say your tolerance for pain increases as you get older (which is why old people can sit on top of a fire just about and get ulcers in their legs- they don’t feel the heat pain). Maybe you are getting younger! 😊

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Ouch! It’s my belief that pain thresholds are influenced by all kinds of things and at the moment we are all, to some extent at least, living with fear and anxiety. So that anything which threatens us seems greater than it actually is. I’ve found myself in tears over the tiniest things and I think it’s the same phenomenon

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I injure myself pretty often, and expect to bleed a little when rock scrambling, trimming palm trees, or just moving around sharp corners in the house with reckless abandon. I haven’t noticed any difference in my attitude towards pain, though. Maybe I just haven’t crossed the tolerance threshold yet?

    I’m certainly not happy to hear that you are experiencing heightened sensitivity to pain, and don’t have any plausible answer as to why. I’ve often heard that older people bruise more easily, and, of course, that it takes longer to heal from an injury. Maybe pain, as experienced by older people, has something to do with a degradation in how the brain interprets the nerve signals it receives? Some kind of age-related cognitive impairment? Perhaps one of your readers is a doctor, and can enlighten you…

    Liked by 1 person

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