Enhanced pain modulation among triathletes: A possible explanation for their exceptional capabilities.
Triathletes and Ironman triathletes often engage in extremely intense sport sessions, which involve a considerable amount of pain and stress. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible effect of extreme long-term exercise and stress on pain perception. Participants were 19 (ironman) triathletes (10 men) and 17 non-athletes (7 men), who exercised regularly. Pain thresholds and pain tolerance were measured using heat and cold stimuli and a visual analogue scale to measure the perceived pain intensity. Conditioned pain modulation (CMP) was used to test the diffuse noxious inhibitory control system (DNIC). Questionnaires were used to assess some of the psychological factors that can predict pain outcomes.
On average, triathletes practised 6 times more hours a week then controls and their level of fear of pain was significantly lower than that of controls. The exhibited CMP in triathletes was significantly more powerful compared to controls. No differences in pain thresholds was observed between triathletes and controls, but a significant group difference was found in pain tolerance, with triathletes exhibiting a higher threshold. Pain tolerance is often attributed to the ability or willingness to endure pain. In triathletes this could signify the motivational aspects of pain, but may also stem from a habituation effect. > From: Geva et al., PAIN (2013) (Epub ahead of print). All rights reserved to the International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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