Pain decreases pain

August 15, 2010 BY danariely

In Chapter 6 of “The Upside of Irrationality” I wrote about the the process of adaptation, which is the process by which we get used to stuff — like pain, romantic partners, and new cars.

Some of the personal experiences and experiments I described were about how experiencing pain when I was hospitalized caused me (and others) to view pain differently and with a lower intensity.

A new study on back pain, showed the basic same results:

“This study of 396 adults with chronic back pain found that those with some lifetime adversity reported less physical impairment, disability, and heavy utilization of health care than those who had experienced either no adversity or a high level of adversity…… The data suggest that adversity-exposure also may protect against psychiatric disturbances that occur with chronic back pain…”

I am not suggesting that everyone goes and get some more experience in adversity — just to prepare ourselves in case something bad will take place in the future.  But, it is interesting to realize that negative experiences influence our adaptation, and this way also on our ability to deal more positively with new negative circumstances.