Why do people react to similar injuries differently?

Imagine this: You and your co-worker both take a tumble on a loose tile on the office floor near the copier. You both land on your backs pretty hard. Your co-worker takes the rest of the week off, but comes back to work the following Monday morning and goes on like nothing happened. You end up needing physical therapy and have to file for disability because you’re now having trouble walking, sitting and standing. Chronic pain has disrupted your entire life.

Why can two people experience drastically different results from nearly identical injuries?

Even if you and your co-worker have identical x-rays after your falls, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have identical results as you heal. Risk managers like to sell the idea that your reaction to pain is largely “in your head” and all about your expectations. In other words, if you expect to be seriously injured and believe you are seriously injured, you will be. If you just remain nicely opened-minded, however, you’ll be just fine.

That’s nonsense. It’s the kind of nonsense that insurers and employers like to push, however, because it puts all of the responsibility for an employee’s condition back on the employee (instead of on the employer where it belongs).

Here’s the reality of why two people with the same injuries can end up with drastically different experiences:

  • Your genetics vary. Gene mutations and normal variations alike can do strange things to the human body and science is just starting to work out why.
  • Your ages are different. Younger people are more sensitive to superficial pain than older people, who gradually lose some sensitivity in their peripheral nerve endings. However, older people are more sensitive to deep-tissue pain. Researchers think it has to do with the aging biological pain-control system in the human body.
  • Your emotional state. Depression can numb you down — but it also reduces your ability to tolerate pain. And depression is a biochemical issue, not something you can just get rid of by changing how you think.

These aren’t even the only factors that control the way your body responds to pain and injuries — they’re just the start.

If you’ve been injured due to a slip-and-fall accident or some other incident at work, don’t try to “tough it out.” Report the incident so that you can get the help you’re entitled to receive due to a workplace injury.