I recently (beginning of May) tripped while running and smashed my face into concrete. I remember it happening, and at first I felt so stupid for falling that I laughed, and all of a sudden, blood started pouring from my face- so much blood, I’ve never seen that amount before. It was everywhere.. on my shirt, on the sidewalk..etc. It wasn’t until I realized that I was bleeding did I start getting hysterical and realized that I was in pain. I had to go to the ER and get stitches, and had to have my nose reset because I broke it in three places. I would have never known I did this damage if I hadn’t visually seen all the blood.
Before this accident, I had complained that my leg was hurting because I had a shin splint. After I had surgery, I realized that I no longer was in pain because of my leg, my attention shifted to the pain on my face. Another way to shift attention to decrease pain is through positive things, or things that take one’s mind off an area of the body. 3D imaging has been used to distract burn patients from getting their bandages changed.
My sister did a science experiment for a science fair to prove that people could withstand more pain, for a longer period of time when they were distracted. She concluded that people could keep their foot in an ice bath longer while playing a video game then when they were doing nothing else. We can do unpleasant activities longer when our minds are somewhere else, focusing on something other than pain. I often do an abdominal workout while playing a timed game on my phone, because when you are occupied, you don’t realize that you are fatigued as quickly!
There are people who can actually use their own thinking to mask any pain that they might feel. This takes extreme concentration, learned from years of mediation. The Shaolin Monks are known for their extreme mediation skills, and channeling their energy so that they have less emotional reaction to pain. They perform seemingly painful stunts that show off their incredible tolerance to pain. The video below shows how an average person with chronic pain can shrink their pain by learning how to control their brain!