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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?

Via allinonemovie on Pixabay

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.

The way that nerves grow follow a general guideline but the exact path they follow is somewhat random. (pic via ColiN00b on Pixabay)

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.*

11 thoughts on “Corsets, Nerves and Pain

  1. Hi , i been coresting for couple months and have achieved reduction by 2 inches now so thats a upside , but now suddenly when i put it on i get pins and needles on my feet , it feels as if its going numb, this never happened before so im confused as to why it is now , your insight will be appreciated !

    1. Hi Riah, feel free to send me an email and let me know what your measurements are as well as the corset brand, style and size that you are wearing. If the corset’s hips are smaller than your own hips, the fit won’t be appropriate and this can cause nerve issues. It’s imperative that the corset hips match your own hips and are not smaller (or the wrong shape). I prefer to do this in a private email as opposed to in a comment thread, because sizing advice is personal to you and your body, and shouldn’t be interpreted for everyone equally.

  2. Sometimes, after I lace my corset I start to have numbness under the corset on my hip. The corset otherwise doesn’t cause me any pain or discomfort, just this numbness. There is still space between my hip/ribcage and the corset as well.
    I don’t know what should I do about it… I know I could just loosen it, but it sucks because it’s not uncomfortable anywhere else… I don’t want to cause myself a nerve damage though.

    1. Hi Victoria, it could be due to the placement of the steel bones being unfortunately placed right over one of the nerves of your back. If the panels of the corset were distributed differently, or if you were possibly wearing a different size, there’s a chance that this pressure would be alleviated and you might not have this issue. You’re welcome to send me an email and we can discuss what corset style and size you’re wearing, and whether I can recommend anything different to fit you more comfortably.

  3. I have Fibromyalgia, it’s changed a lot as I’ve gotten older and varies wildly among suffers too. So sometimes I’ve had a day where the corset makes me feel pretty sore. Other days the pressure feels nice. I use an Orchard corset liner or very soft tank tops. However, my Corset Story overbusts leave serious ‘grill’ marks since they have external boning channels. I get less with my Orchard Corsets but wow can I get a lot of itchy grooves when I take them off! I get this with bikini tops, sports bras, bras, really anything that is tight against my skin so that’s probably just the way my skin is.

  4. Dear Lucy,

    I love your content! I’ve only started corseting within the past few days, and I love it! I’m not experiencing any pain, although some pressure and discomfort in the ribs is present. However, I’m concerned about some numbness in my skin. People in comments and forums discuss how problematic leg and arm numbness is, but nobody seems to be talking about numbness in the skin. Maybe it’s so typical that nobody talks about it? Basically, I have lowered sensation in the skin right below the corset around my hipbones, and also right above the busk. Is this normal, and should I be worried about it?

    1. Hi Rachel, numbness should not be regarded as normal or typical. Also, does your skin feels cool to the touch? If so, that’s definitely a sign to lace a bit looser or find a corset that has a different fit. I have an extensive article specifically on possible skin issues with corsets here.

  5. Dear lucy. I’m currently wearing a 20 steel boned cincher slim type. When ever i try to tight lace it to 1/2 and inch of my original waist after a while i would feel a terrible stabing pain in my lower back. I have never experienced this feeling when tight lace an original corset. Is it because mine is a knok off steel boned type? Or is it possible that my muscles are resisting the corset thus the painbut its only in my right side. because i do alot of weights training in my dream to become a fitness model. But my body fat percentage is still normal and mot that low especially in the abdominal part for me to be categorized as muscular. Andit also came to a point where the pain scale was 10/10. Please help

    1. Hi Madeline, any kind of pain is not normal, but especially not a sharp stabbing pain. What brand of corset are you using? What size and how big is the gap in the back? I would definitely see if you can get a refund on that corset.

      1. It was from a local importer of corsets. It had no specific brand either. According to the seller it was made from hongkong the gap in the back is approx 4 inches and the size is 22 I don’t think a refund is possible with that particular seller. But thank you for replaying

  6. One of my favorite posts.

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