Why it matters how you think about pain

In the News

Why it matters how you think about pain

April 17, 2018

Alex Hutchinson, author of Endure, writes an article for Outside Magazine on pain tolerance among endurance athletes. He quotes UW Medicine pain psychologist Kevin Alschuler.

"At the American Pain Society’s annual meeting last month, a research team led by University of Washington pain psychologist Kevin Alschuler presented some preliminary results from a study of 204 participants in three of the events in the 4 Deserts Race Series, which takes place in the Sahara, Gobi, and Atacama deserts. Each event is a 155-mile multistage run; the researchers collected data on pain intensity and pain coping strategies for five consecutive days at each event.

Some fun details emerge from the data. On average, the participants reported spending about 30 percent of their racing time thinking about pain. (See? Endurance athletes are obsessed with pain!) Their average pain levels were about four on a scale of zero to ten, with highest pain level during the run averaging just over five.

But the most interesting data deals with the difference between “adaptive” and “maladaptive” pain coping strategies."