While the content of dreams is usually more mental than physical, sometimes people do experience pain or other physical sensations in their dreams. This can be an added layer of information to consider when interpreting a dream.
Pain Dream Summary
Pain Dream Symbolism
Some people report that they can feel physical pain in their dreams. Though not everyone has this experience, it is similar enough to the very common experience of having a full bladder and dreaming of looking for a toilet that it is believable.
The first thing to rule out when interpreting a dream where you feel pain is whether you are experiencing a physical sensation, even from something like sleeping in an awkward position, that could account for the pain in your dream.
Psychology Today reports that dream researchers have studied the role of physical sensation and sensory stimuli in influencing dreams. In one study, a participant would sleep with a blood pressure cuff on their leg, and a researcher would inflate the cuff as they slept to induce the sensation of leg pressure. Many participants then reported dreams that incorporated leg pressure, such as a dream that involved paralysis of the leg.
As for pain dreams that occur without a physical sensation to explain them, Vice reports that the visual areas of the brain are active without outside input during dreaming. Areas of the brain involved in processing pain could at least theoretically do the same.
Pain dreams without an obvious physical cause can be interpreted based on their storyline like any other dream. That the dream causes you pain may simply reflect the intensity of your emotional engagement with the topic.
Common Pain Dreams
- Dream of tooth pain
- Dream of labor pain
- Dream of pain in the neck
- Dream of back pain
- Dream of stomach pain
- Getting hurt in a dream and feeling it
Pain Dream Symbolism
If you feel pain in a dream, this could be related to an actual medical problem you have, especially if you have similar pain in your waking life. As always, this website does not provide medical advice, and you need to see a healthcare professional for that.
Pain in dreams can result from physical sensations that are not serious medical problems but are nonetheless real. For example, it’s well known that the physical sensation of a full bladder often results in dreams of looking for a toilet. Similarly, the routine discomfort of menstrual cramps could provoke dreams involving back pain or labor pain.
Dreaming of pain could reflect emotional turmoil. It may be less threatening for you to feel certain intense emotional experiences as physical sensations. Physician John Sarno understood the experience of back pain in waking life that way, as reported by Vox.
Dreams can use puns, so, for example, if you feel backstabbed by someone you had trusted, this might come out in a dream of back pain. If someone is really annoying you, you may dream of having a pain in the neck, or a pain in the butt.
Common Pain Dreams
Dream of tooth pain
If you have tooth pain in your dreams, one possibility could be that you are grinding your teeth in your sleep. Your dentist may be able to tell you if that is the case.
If a tooth pain dream involves other things going on with your teeth that are clearly not happening in your waking life, a symbolic interpretation might be more appropriate. A dream of broken teeth falling out can symbolize fear of losing something important in your life, for example.
As noted in teeth dream symbolism, the different sets of teeth that you get over the course of your life mark milestones of physical maturity. They also are involved with your ability to nourish yourself by chewing your own food. A dream that there is something wrong with your teeth to the point of causing pain could symbolize that you feel like your ability to take care of yourself is threatened.
Dream of labor pain
Pregnancy dreams are common, whether or not you actually are or hope to become pregnant. A dream of labor pain could symbolize your fears about actual or potential pregnancy. Different people are afraid of different parts of the process, but some people are specifically afraid of the part where you go into labor and give birth.
If actual pregnancy is not possible or likely for you at this time, your labor pain dream meaning could be more about the difficulties of bringing a creative project into reality. It might even be about something like launching a business.
A dream of labor pain could also come from menstrual cramps, especially if you still hurt in that area when you wake up. As noted in blood dream symbolism, just about any dream involving blood can indicate that you are or soon will be menstruating, so seeing blood in your labor pain dream would support this interpretation.
One user of Ask MetaFilter reported dreams of giving birth provoked by the sensation of having a really full bladder. Needing to urinate may therefore be a factor in some dreams of labor pain.
Dream of pain in the neck
Pain in the neck can definitely be caused by sleeping in an uncomfortable position, and your pain in the neck dream meaning could in many cases be as simple as that. If you think it needs to be explored more symbolically, though, a dream of neck pain could come from not being able to tell others in your life when they have overstepped your boundaries.
Healthline reports that there are seven major energy centers in the body known as chakras. The throat chakra is the one in the neck area, and muscle tension can build up there if it becomes imbalanced.
What the throat chakra wants is to help you communicate and speak your truth. A dream of neck pain, however, could show that you feel blocked from saying your piece to others.
The phrase “pain in the neck” is often used to refer to someone who is annoying. Another component of the annoyance, beyond whatever they are actually doing, might be that you feel like you can’t speak up to tell them how their behavior bothers you.
Dream of back pain
Back pain, like neck pain, could result from sleeping in an uncomfortable position, and that might be at least part of your back pain dream meaning. Menstrual cramps might be another physical sensation contributing to a back pain dream.
If your dream of back pain seems to be more symbolic than that, however, you could look into whether you feel overly burdened with responsibilities in your waking life. You might be trying to carry the whole world on your back.
Alternately, a back pain dream could come from a sense of being stabbed in the back. You might feel like you were betrayed by someone you trusted, or like someone who has a problem with you is too cowardly to confront you directly.
Dream of stomach pain
If your stomach pain dream meaning is not easily explainable by a physical sensation like needing to pass gas or have a bowel movement, the symbolism might be related to that of a vomiting dream.
A dream of vomiting can be largely about boundaries, in the sense that your body is showing the limits to what it will and will not tolerate. Vomiting, however, usually relieves stomach pain once the offending substance has been ejected.
Sometimes stomach pain drags on, however, as your body deliberates over whether to eliminate something it doesn’t agree with through vomiting or through defecation. Your stomach pain dream could similarly symbolize a situation where you need to make a difficult decision, and it may be telling you to go with your gut.
A stomach pain dream could also reflect that you have a bad gut feeling about someone or something in your life, even if the person or situation looks good on paper.
Getting hurt in a dream and feeling it
If you dream of getting attacked and feeling the pain, and there’s not an obvious physical sensation to blame, the more symbolically important part of the dream could be the attack itself. You might need to look at the symbolism of who committed the attack and how they did it.
If you experienced pain while dreaming of being attacked by an animal, you may need to refer to the symbolism of that particular animal.
In waking life, pain is an important warning sign that lets you know something needs attention. The same is probably true of pain in dreams. If you can’t identify a physical sensation that provoked your pain dream, try to understand the emotions behind it so that you can address the problem.