Think that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? We have bad news for you: if one of those things that didn’t kill you was torture, you’ll be more susceptible to pain for the rest of your life.
A study published in the European Journal of Pain (just stop and take in that title for a moment) found that victims of torture not only suffer from chronic pain, they also suffer pain more easily and acutely. Researchers had a total of 104 Israeli veterans of the Yom Kippur War to undergo a series of tests to measure pain tolerance, such as immersing their arms in hot water. Sixty of the participants had been severely tortured as prisoners of war in either Egypt or Syria, while the remainder had participated in the war but were not tortured.
Former POWs not only reported more chronic pain, they experienced greater levels of “wind-up” pain; that is, when painful stimulus is repeated and amplified. They also suffered greater levels of pain inhibition, which is when the body experiences two different sources of pain, where one of the sources lessens the other.