Will You Burn More Calories If Your Body Feels Pain?

Let’s face it; we’re all looking for ways to burn more calories. But burning calories is not always a pleasant experience. Most often, it brings with it bodily pain. Exercises like weight lifting, running, swimming, etc., can get some degree of pain.

So, you may be wondering, does the pain have anything to do with burning calories? Does being in physical agony have some desirable effects? That’s what I’ll tell you, does pain burn calories?

What is Pain?

Have you ever wondered what pain is? Or why do we feel pain? If you ask anyone what pain is, you’ll get the same answer. It’s a horrible feeling which you’ll want to get rid of as soon as possible.

It may sound crazy, but the pain is actually a good thing. It’s your body’s way of telling you, ‘Hey, there’s something wrong with me, better get yourself checked out. Without pain, you wouldn’t understand if something is wrong with your body. And before you know it, the problem might become much worse.

So, how does your body know when you’re in pain? For that, let’s look at how you feel pain.

woman worried about does pain burn calories
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

How Do You Feel Pain?

Everything that you feel is due to the nerves in your body. Nerves are these bundles of fibers spread throughout your body. They carry various signals from your brain to your body and vice versa.

There are two types of nerves, sensory and motor. The sensory nerves are responsible for carrying sensation from the rest of the body to your brain. You can feel touch, heat, cold, pressure, pain, vibration, etc., because of these nerves.

One type of these sensory nerves is responsible for carrying pain signals. These nerves have special sensors. These sensors are called pain receptors or nociceptors. When these receptors are stimulated, they send signals to your brain. Then, you feel pain.

Now let’s look at the things that can stimulate these nociceptors. Three kinds of stimuli or signals can stimulate the receptors. They are physical, chemical, and thermal.

1. Physical

If any part of your body is injured, these cause damage. Some of the cells, blood vessels, etc., are destroyed. So, various substances leak out from these cells, which aren’t supposed to be outside the cell. The nociceptors recognize these substances. Thus, they send pain signals.

2. Chemical

Your body also releases various chemical substances in tissue injury. These chemicals can stimulate the nociceptors. So, you’ll feel a sensation of pain.

3. Thermal

Increasing the temperature can cause cell damage and death. The intense heat can also directly stimulate the nociceptors. This leads to you feeling pain and heat.

So, the main reason why pain receptors activate is because of tissue damage. It is a sensation you feel in your brain as a result of nerve signals.

Now to answer, does pain burn calories; let’s take a look at the calorie burning concept.

Burning Calories

So, what are calories? Is it something in our body that we just want to burn away? Calories are just a measure of energy. That’s right, when you say calories, it measures the same thing as ‘watt-hour’ or ‘joules.

One calorie is the amount of energy you’d need to increase the temperature of 1 gm of water by 1 degree Celsius. However, when we say calories in medical terminology, it means 1 Kilocalorie. It is 1000 times 1 calorie.

Thus, calories are just energy. The more you spend energy, the more calories you’re burning. Now, we all know that working out, doing complicated tasks spend energy. But, it’s much more than that. Your body needs energy for so many other things.

Let’s take a look at how an average person uses energy.

1. Energy for Basic Metabolism

You spend a lot of energy just by existing. That’s right; you’re burning energy now, reading this article. But how is that possible? It is because of the various processes which are essential for life.

There are thousands of biochemical reactions going on in your body. You need these reactions for survival. And these require a lot of energy.

  • Every cell in your body is constantly using energy as well. There is something called a sodium-potassium pump in the covering of the cells. This pump ensures that the cell doesn’t burst. And this pump requires energy.
  • There are also numerous involuntary muscles in your body. Involuntary muscles function without your knowledge or control. Your heart, stomach, intestines, etc., have these kinds of muscles. When they are active, they burn energy without even you knowing.
  • Your heart is constantly pumping blood to your whole body. An average person has around five to six liters of blood in their body. Circulating this enormous amount of blood requires a lot of energy.
  • Your lungs are constantly active too. Your diaphragm (muscle separating the chest from the abdomen) and chest muscles thus utilize energy regularly.
  • Another thing that is active and requires energy is your brain. Your neurons are constantly firing and using up energy. So, you may have doubts about ‘does pain burn calories,’ but your brain indeed does.

These processes constantly happen and without even you knowing. And they require energy. This is the basal metabolism. You’ll be surprised to learn that an average person has a BMR of 1500-2000 calories.

These rates, however, aren’t always constant. Various factors can influence how much energy you’re using without knowing. They include:

Hormone and chemicals

Different hormones and chemicals can stimulate your body to use less or more energy. They include thyroid hormones, stress hormones like steroids, catecholamines, glucocorticoids, etc. So, if the levels of these hormones change, then your metabolism will change as well.

Environmental conditions

If it is too cold outside, you’ll generate more heat. Your body always tries to keep a constant temperature. So, you’ll burn more calories if you’re in a cold environment. The opposite happens in hot weather.

Diet

Your diet influences your metabolism as well. Eating healthy food, lots of fibers, and whole grains can boost metabolism as well. Junk food, refined sugar, high LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) can cause fat deposition. And hence, that energy isn’t utilized correctly.

If you do not follow a balanced diet and maintain an irregular meal routine, you will end up asking do hunger pains burn calories. And let me tell you that an empty stomach can cause pain and calorie burn.

Drugs

Various drugs can boost or slow metabolism as well. Some antibacterial, statins and antimalarial medications can cause increased metabolism. Again, drugs like anti-depressants, anti-epileptic, and steroids can cause slow metabolism.

Others

Processes like inflammation, wound healing, etc., can use up energy as well. The body activates various mechanisms to kill microbes to clean up dead cells. The body also has to make more cells and deposit tissue to heal the wound. So, this can require energy.

2. Energy used for day-to-day tasks

Your body consists of almost 60-80% voluntary skeletal muscle. And you lose calories every time you use these muscles. Walking, sitting upright, standing, doing chores, running errands, etc., burn calories. Although this amount is small, it can still make a difference. And if you ask, ‘does pain burn calories’ I would say yes, it does.

3. Energy used for heavy tasks

You burn those calories when you do heavy tasks. You use up more bulky muscles for these tasks. They use up a lot of your energy. So, people who do heavy tasks for a living don’t have to think about burning calories.

Image by janeb13 from Pixabay

These heavy tasks include working out, running, lifting heavy objects, etc. The more muscle fibers you use, the more calories you burn.

4. Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Practices like meditative practices, reducing stress, and treating anxiety can also help burn calories in the long run.

Does Pain Burn Calories or Not?

You’ve probably figured it out by now if pain burns calories. There is no direct correlation between pain and calories. Pain is a stimulation, just like pressure, heat, or cold. Pain by itself doesn’t cause any calories to be burnt.

The nerve signals which carry pain signals do burn some number of calories. But it’s so tiny that you won’t even be able to count it.

But that’s not the end of the story. You see, several things cause pain and burn calories at the same time. Let’s take a look at the conditions when pain is associated with calorie burning.

When Pain and Calorie Burning Takes Place Together?

The best example of this is when you exercise. One of the most common exercises is running.

When you constantly use the muscles of your legs, the cells can’t use oxygen properly. It happens because the legs are moving so fast. The oxygen flow through the blood can’t keep up. So, your legs produce energy without using oxygen.

This process is called anaerobic glycolysis. It produces a substance called lactic acid that can cause pain in case of any build-ups. Lactic acid stimulates the pain receptors in your muscles. That’s why you feel pain when you run. However, when your legs get enough oxygen, the lactic acid is broken down. So, the pain goes away.

Working out like weight lifting can cause small tears in your muscle fibers. These tears induce inflammation. And one of the components of inflammation is pain. That’s why you’ll feel pain after a heavy workout. So, if you are worried about does your body burn more calories when injured, let me tell you yes, it does.

Does Back Pain Burn Calories?

If you’re suffering from chronic conditions like back pain, you can have calorie loss as well. Your body is in a state of chronic inflammation. You might feel pain and discomfort.  And you’ll utilize energy as well. Several metabolic changes also occur during these conditions. So, in this case, the pain will burn calories.

Pain that Won’t Cause Calories to Burn

Emotional strain caused by stressful conditions can cause energy expenditure. If you feel severe emotional pain, your body releases stress hormones. Some degree of stress hormones is also released when you get hurt. However, this increase isn’t significant. And the extreme pain felt is temporary.

But, how many calories does crying burn when you are upset? I am afraid the amount is almost zero. And make sure not to get worried and ask your pediatrician, ‘does crying burn calories in babies’ because it doesn’t.

That’s why, in these types of pain, there isn’t much calorie loss. The inflammation and other reactions are highly localized. They need calories, but not enough that they’ll affect your whole body.

A type of pain women commonly witness is pain due to menstrual cramps. This type of pain occurs because of the higher levels of prostaglandins. This is a chemical substance that can cause painful contraction of the muscles.

This contraction stops blood flow to the inner layers of the uterus. Thus, the cells of those layers die. This releases various chemicals which stimulate the nerves. So, there is intense pain during cramps.

So, you can understand, there is no increased metabolism. Neither is their movement of large masses of muscles. Hence, it’s unlikely to burn calories just from period pain. Some studies show the complete opposite. The hormonal imbalance during periods makes you burn fewer calories.

Another type of pain is nerve pain. Nerve pain is caused by shingles, sciatica, carpal tunnel, diabetes, etc. This pain is mainly due to abnormal compression of the nerves. This type of pain, too, won’t burn any calories.

How to Burn Calories Easily?

Now you know the answer to the question, does pain burn calories? More often than not, it doesn’t. But, what to do if you want to burn calories? Below are some easy ways you can do so:

Exercise

High-intensity exercise is the best way to burn calories fast. It also boosts metabolism, so your BMR increases.

Dietary Changes

Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages increases metabolism. You can also try eating less more frequently and chewing your food thoroughly. A healthy breakfast can increase metabolism throughout the day as well. You should also avoid junk food, saturated and trans-fat, and refined sugar as much as possible.

Lifestyle Changes

Some minor changes in your lifestyle can improve your metabolism a lot. They include:

  • Going to bed early and sleeping the appropriate amount
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking
  • Live more actively, use stairs, walk whenever you can
  • Taking up yoga, sports, etc..

Conclusion

So, to conclude, does pain burn calories? Not really. Some things which burn calories can be painful. But pain isn’t the reason for calorie burning. However, with proper exercise, lifestyle, and dietary changes, you can burn those calories in no time.

FAQs

Do Emotions Burn Calories?

Emotions don’t burn any significant number of calories. However, the resultant stress caused by the emotions can lead to calorie burn. Restlessness due to frustration or anxiety can be another factor that can burn a few calories. However, the amount is very insignificant.

What Weird Things Burn Calories?

Any functions that require energy burn calories no matter how minuscule the amount is. Things like cold weather, drinking coffee, fidgeting, drinking lots of water can burn calories s they are associated with adopting bodily conditions.

Do Period Cramps Burn Calories?

Period cramps don’t burn calories. You may burn fewer calories during your periods. However, blood loss and temporary reduction in red blood cells can trigger bodily function, leading to a few calories burned during the period.

Which Muscles Burn The Most Calories?

The larger the muscle, the more calories they burn. The muscles of the thighs, legs, arms, and chest require more energy to function. Thus, they burn more calories than the smaller muscles.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Afifa Amer

My name is Afifa Amer and I have done Doctor of Pharmacy. I am a registered retail pharmacist. I believe we should not stick to one specific job, so writing and educating others has always been my passion. I love to share content that improves health, fitness and well being. When I am not typing or dealing with prescriptions, I like to travel and read books.

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