Resistant to pain through martial arts?

Do martial arts make people more resistant to pain?

If you haven't suspected it after the innumerable performances of the indescribable tricks by Shaolin monks and other martial artists, let me tell you at this point: Martial arts reduce the sensation of pain. This is what doctors from the Bergmannsheil University Clinic in Bochum have found out and have now presented their study results at the German Pain Congress in Mannheim (6 to 9 October 2010).

Indians know no pain - martial artists apparently also do not Researchers from the Bergmannsheil University Hospital in Bochum have used brain wave measurements to investigate the phenomenon of hardening of pain in martial artists and found that they are less sensitive to pain. The brain waves of the athletes were recorded using electrodes while they were exposed to light pain stimuli in order to record the unconscious reaction to the pain. In addition, the test persons were asked about their personal pain perception. The change in their brain waves and their subjective emotional or affective pain perception show that martial artists are less sensitive to pain, according to the scientists. "Martial artists deal with pain much more calmly and also seem to be less sensitive," emphasized study director Monika Dirkwinkel from the Neurological Clinic of the Bergmannsheil University Hospital in Bochum.

Resilience through training - it is not the body that is decisive, but the mind In most martial arts, resilience against pain is an essential part of training. The targeted simulation of hit situations or permanent stress on certain parts of the body reduces the sensation of pain in order not to have any disadvantage in combat through corresponding hits or injuries. The increased pain resistance is not due to the well-trained muscles and musculoskeletal system of the test subjects, but rather to the processing of pain stimuli in the brain, the researchers explained. "We could not find any physical changes in martial artists that would explain the reduced perception of pain," says Monika Dirkwinkel. Rather, the study results suggested that the psychological acceptance of pain is different among athletes. Because while “most people (...) complain of headaches and try to treat them with medication, for example," "for martial artists (...) the feeling of pain is not negatively affected, but a natural part of the training", explained the study director Dirkwinkel.

New treatment approaches conceivable "If it (...) succeeds in understanding the mechanisms that occur in martial artists' reduced pain perception even better," neurologist Monika hopes that new starting points for treating pathological pain can be found on the basis of the results Dirkwinkel. However, no new therapeutic method can be derived directly from the current findings, but rather they serve the general understanding of pain perception. (Fp, 01.10.2010)

Photo credit: jutta rotter /

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