Passing out from pain?

Outside of stories do people really pass out from pain? Is this something everyone can have happen or are only some people subject to it?

It happened to me once.

It was a very sudden so there was no ‘ramping up’ to the pain.

I think that probably contributited to my passing out.

Yes, people do pass out from pain. When my back went into spasm, the rescue squad was attempting to lift me onto the gurney so as to get me to the hospital. And it hurt so badly that I started to gray out. So the dummies put me back down.

So they gave me as much morphine as they were allowed, gave me a roll of gauze to bite on, and I said, “Let’s just do this. Don’t. Stop.” Maybe it was the morphine, but I did not pass out that time. Unfortunately.

But yes, it happens.


I had a knee injury a while back and on the first morning, when I hadn’t figured out the best way to get around, I stepped down on it the wrong way. I didn’t actually faint, but it was the closest I’ve ever come.

I’ve done it - just a couple hours post-op from outpatient knee surgery. The hospital staff apparently didn’t know the scope of the operation had been changed from a minor nip and tuck to some deeper remodeling. They thought I’d be ambulatory enough to hop off the gurney and onto a Barcalounger in the outpatient recover lounge.

I wasn’t. As soon as I put weight on that leg, it was “puke and pass out” time. (They’d given me some water and/or OJ post-op) Not fun.

One time I was running up some wooden stairs and I tripped, and caught myself in the shin with one of the stair treads. The unexpectedness of hitting such a sensitive place so hard (I didn’t break it) was enough for me to lose my breath for a second and fall to a heap at the top of the stairs. I did indeed “see stars” even.

I broke my back, and when the paramedics rolled me to put me on the backboard the pain was so bad I passed out in a couple of seconds. Didn’t wake up for 11 days, but that wasn’t related to the passing out.

There seems to be a number of mentions of changes in position shortly before the faint. Maybe mine was triggered by a drop in blood pressure as well as pain.


I suffer from vaso-vagal syncope and a common trigger for me it when I hurt myself and I’m in a lot of pain. When a trigger happens blood pools in my legs and I faint dead away. After 15-20 seconds I wake up on the ground.

So for those of us that suffer from VVS it’s a very real and common situation.

I once spent an entire night alone, with a ruptured appendix. It was the most intense and prolonged pain I’ve ever experienced, and I know I passed out several times.

As alluded to by dolphinboy, it’s the vaso-vagal reflex.

Intense pain is one of the things that can stimulate it. It results in a drop in blood pressure with near syncope or actual syncope (loss of consciousness) being common.

Everyone’s threshold and triggers for a vaso-vagal episode are different, and may vary from day to day in a given individual too.

I see it a lot at work. It ain’t pretty but it is impressive.

Ruptured Pancreas did it for me.

Internal bleeding from a hemorrhaging ovarian cyst did it twice for me. I lost so much blood to my inner cavities that I had to get a transfusion. It was neither a fun nor happy time.

I was once with someone whose finger broke, and the pain caused her to pass out. And lose bladder control, rather embarrasingly. She woke up again within a few seconds, though.

The Doctor told us a simplified (and probably now remembered inaccurately) explanation - blood rushed to the area of pain and away from the brain, causing fainting; perfectly common and nothing to worry about.

Slipped on ice (how glamorous!). Woke up a little later. Seems I nailed one of those legendary ninja-kill-you-instantly points near my knee. Was on crutches for days.
And I never cry; but this hurt so bad, I cried. After I woke up.

I tried to catch a basket ball and had my fingers “staved” as the PE teacher put it. The ball hit my fingers end on, my vision went all grey and then I fainted.

I’ve almost fainted when a nurse was treating an ingrown toenail. The little metal instrument she was using probed my toe a little too much and even though it was only a very slight pain, I still went all grey and nearly passed out walking down the stairs.

Having Dad try and poke a dead insect out of my eye almost did it for me too. Wasn’t painful at all, just an odd feeling, but it still had me almost fainting.

Can’t say what links all those feelings to fainting, but I know I’m not an adrenaline junkie, I’ve something of a nervous disposition to such things.

QtM’s link also confirms that you can pass out from seeing other people’s pain. This happened to me once when I was scorekeeper at a junior high basketball game. Two boys fell awkwardly right next to me and one of them clearly broke his arm. He laid there in terrible pain for quite a while. I eventually had to lay my head down on the scorer’s table. I just figured I was a wuss.

My first kidney stone did it to me.

I’ve had sudden hand injuries twice, both of which made my vision tunnel down to pinpoints and left me unable to stand or walk for about a half hour. What’s weird is that the pain wasn’t the worst I’ve had either time, but there was something about the suddenness of it and the ohmygodMYHANDness of it that made me lose it each time.

And not that it matters, but:

  1. My dog’s leash was wrapped around my wrist when she charged to greet another dog, bashing my knuckles into a wooden fence post.

  2. Shucking oysters, the knife slipped and plunged through the heart line on my palm.

This used to happen with my period cramps almost monthly. It was as though as soon as the pain hit this specific spot on my abdomen, I’d pass out. I got better at feeling it coming and usually managed to sit down before it hit, but it was really bad.

My kidney stone affected me the same way.