Do multiple body modifications alter pain threshold?

by on 24/01/2018 - 12:20 pm

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Title: Do multiple body modifications alter pain threshold?
Abstract: In recent years, epidemiological data has shown an increasing number of young people who deliberately self-injure. There have also been parallel increases in the number of people with tattoos and those who voluntarily undergo painful procedures associated with piercing, scarification, and tattooing. People with self-injury behaviors often say that they do not feel the pain. However, there is no information regarding pain perception in those that visit tattoo parlors and piercing studios compared to those who don't. The aim of this study was to compare nociceptive sensitivity in four groups of subjects ....
Industry Significance Rating: Informative - General industry awareness.
Publication: Physiological Research - 66 (Supplementum 4) 30/12/2017
Authors: Yamamotová A, Hrabák P, Hříbek P, Rokyta R.
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Within this study he authors are posing the question if repeated exposure to painful stimuli during tattoo, piercing and other forms of body modification services haves the potential to reduce the subjects sensitivity to pain by raising the pain threshold. Previous authors have eluded to this possibility, in 2016 a publication in the American Journal of Human Biology hypothesised that the body may habituate over time to the tattooing stressor.

In this study the researchers took a novel approach by measuring nociceptive activity (reaction to painful stimuli) at a "Hell Party" event organized by a piercing and tattoo parlour, with a main event featuring a public demonstration of painful techniques such as burn scars, hanging on hooks and other visually challenging displays. In their conclusions the authors noted that multiple body modifications did not differ in nociceptive sensitivity i.e. pain threshold did not appear to increase due to having multiple body modifications.

Interestingly the authors also noted "The observation that participants with and without body modifications measured at the Hell Party had higher nociceptive thresholds than the corresponding groups measured in neutral environment", and concluded that it suggests that pain threshold was "top-down modulated via affective and cognitive processes". In other words the authors are suggesting that environmental stimuli and the thought processes of the individual play a major role in modulating the perceptions of painful stimuli.

This research is perhaps supportive of the anecdotal evidence from the tattoo industry whereby experienced technicians may have noted that attention to the salon/parlour environment and careful management of the clients anticipation of pain can play a major role in comfort of the client during the actual service.


Medical Report, pain threshold, body modification, tattoo, cognitive process, environment


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