Posted on 9 Comments

Corsets, Nerves and Pain

This entry is a summary of the video “Corsets, Nerves & Pain” which you can watch here:

I have always stated that I never feel pain when I corset. Granted, there were times that corsets have been uncomfortable, like how shoes are uncomfortable before you break them in, or parting your hair on the other side of your head is uncomfortable, but this discomfort in a new corset always subsides within a few hours or days. However, it never gets to the point of pain for me.

However other experienced corseters have mentioned that they are never quite comfortable in a corset. On, Ann Grogan mentions that on a pain scale of 1-10 her corsets are consistently around a 6. What does this mean, and how can we explain this discrepancy?

Does it mean their corsets are worse quality than my own? Of course not; Ms Grogan owns corsets from some of the best modern corsetieres.

Does it means I’m a total wuss when it comes to pain? I definitely can be, I don’t have a high tolerance to pain and I don’t like it. However I can still successfully cinch down to 22 inches.

The best explanation I can find is that I must have a high pain threshold – this is related to the way my body was formed and this is different to pain tolerance.

What kinds of nerves are there?

Neurons (nerve cells) come in two different flavours:
Sensory nerves: the nerves that send signals from your body to your brain. These help you feel. These types of nerves are the ones that we will focus on in this entry.
Motor nerves: the nerves that send signals from your brain to parts of your body. These help you move.

How do nerves work?

Speaking very simply, nerves hold a charge, kind of like batteries. When they hold a charge we say that the cell is polarized. When they get the appropriate signal (by something touching our skin, in the case of sensory nerves) they release this charge, so the cell is now depolarized. This little depolarization signal travels down the axons of a cell.

Think of this action potential being kind of like a relay race, where the signal is like a little messenger running down the axon (the axon being like a long corridor leading to the next nerve). When the next neuron down the line receives the signal, it also depolarizes, releasing its charge, and the tiny runner (signal) gets relayed to the next nerve in line. This continues along each nerve cell in line until the signal reaches the brain. Once the brain makes sense of this signal, you become aware that you “felt” something. All this happens in a tiny fraction of a second!

 Different sensory nerves are built for reading different signals.

Nerves have many receptors (receptors being related to the word “RECEIVE”) because they receive and pick up information. These receptors are like doors and only certain signals, like keys, can open these doors.

Mechanoreceptors sense mechanical changes: touch and pressure like poking, scratching, fluttering etc. These mechanoreceptors open up simply by pushing open the door.

Nocireceptors sense both temperature and pain. Pain can obviously also be mechanic, like tearing or crushing your flesh, but there are many other types that have to have a certain key to open the door and sense, say, changes in temperature. One example is the molecule capsaicin. Capsaicin is present in spicy foods and your nerves may interpret it as heat – and in high enough quantities, pain. A molecule that opens up temperature receptors and gives you a cold sensation is, not surprisingly, menthol. This is why something warm, like peppermint tea, can still give you a cool refreshing sensation. However, if you have any part of your body get too cold (like frost nip), it will hurt!

 What’s the point of all this?

Basically, the feeling of pain depends on how many nerves you have, the type of signal your nerves are receiving, and how concentrated this signal is / how many receptors you have on your nerves.

Just like every tree has a somewhat random organization of branches, everybody’s nervous system is built differently (even identical twins!). We used to think that neurons stopped growing once you were born, but we now know that nerves CAN grow; they can branch out and become thicker in response to stimuli.  It then stands to reason that some people have more sensitive bodies than others. We all have different thresholds for sensation and different levels of pain. Consider the huge range of tolerance to spicy food! So, why would it be any different for separate people having differing levels of tolerance to corseting? I have a body that easily tolerates a corset. Other people don’t.

If your body can easily take the pressure of waist reduction and your friend can’t, don’t tease them or berate them – it doesn’t necessarily mean they are weak or cowardly; their bodies just cannot tolerate it. Likewise, if you have tried on a corset once and found it to be extremely uncomfortable or painful, don’t automatically assume that everyone who corsets must be a masochist. Some people (like myself) actually do feel comfortable and “at home” in a corset!

 I desperately want to corset, but I find them so uncomfortable! What can I do?

You can still wear corsets but you will need more time to get used to the pressure. Some of your sensory nerves get used to a consistent signal over time and become desensitized – sort of like you can feel yourself putting on a shirt in the morning but you don’t feel it on your skin all day. So if you want to start wearing a corset, try wearing it with little or no reduction for several weeks or until you get used to the feeling. Once you get to the point where you forget that you’re wearing it, tighten it just ¼ inch at a time and wait several weeks or a month before tightening it again. It may be a very slow process and take you several years to achieve your goal, but you can absolutely waist train safely, responsibly and without pain.

Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: “No pain, no gain” is a myth. Don’t believe it, nor live by it.

*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*