My tolerance to pain isn’t the same everywhere on the body
When my left side had EDS problems, I noticed its difference from my right
One thing I know for sure is that I have a much higher pain tolerance than most people. I guess that’s probably true for most people who manage chronic pain. They either learn to deal with it as best they can or they can’t function.
What I didn’t consider until recently, however, is that I could have different tolerances for pain in various parts of my body.
My right shoulder is a mess. Since a bad soccer injury as a teenager broke my collarbone, dislocated my shoulder, tore my trapezius muscle, and damaged just about everything else nearby, I’ve dealt with reduced range of motion and pain. It was significantly worse before my diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) at age 22. No one could understand why my shoulder not only wasn’t healing properly, but also seemed to get worse with more physical therapy and use.
In the seven years or so between my original injury and my EDS diagnosis, I had no other choice but to deal with it as best I could. The pain was awful, and at its worst, my range of motion was about 20% to 25% of what it should’ve been.
Over time, the pain started to feel like an annoying fly buzzing around the room. I knew it was there, and if it landed on me I’d be annoyed for a moment, but then I’d brush it off and continue to ignore it until it landed on me again. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. Eventually, I learned to mentally block out the pain.
The variance in where I can tolerate pain
My right shoulder can now handle just about anything. Tough bodywork? No problem. Physical therapy? Sure. Doing what needs to be done around the house? Yep. I just swat the fly away and do what I need to do as best I can. But when my left side flared up recently, I realized I don’t have the same level of pain tolerance there as I do on my right side.
I’d never considered that such tolerance could be region-specific. I suppose I always assumed it was an overall feeling that varies from person to person but not necessarily within a person. But at least for me, it can. I don’t know how, but I know the pain in my left shoulder isn’t anywhere nearly as bad as the pain I’ve experienced in my right one, yet the left side bothers me much more.
I suppose that when I think about it, it makes sense. The nerves that respond to my right shoulder are of course different from the ones on my left. I’ve apparently learned to ignore or downplay the pain signals from certain nerves that get “overused,” but that gift doesn’t translate to other nerves as easily.
Granted, I can still largely ignore the pain in my left shoulder (or wherever else) and push through anyway, but it’s easier to do that for my right shoulder. Learning to manage chronic pain is simply life with EDS.
Despite managing that pain my whole life — even if half of it was without a specific diagnosis — I’m still constantly recognizing new patterns and symptoms. I suppose that’s a perfect example of how you learn something new every day!
Do you notice you’re less tolerant of pain in some areas of your body? Please let me know in the comments below.
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