By Darrel Crain, D.C.
Pain is a four-letter word. It is an experience said to be pretty much common to all of humanity. “Not to have felt pain is not to have been human,” according to the old Jewish Proverb. Yeah, right. I think I speak for the majority of humanity when I say, “How about we just skip that particular human experience?”
Remember how the doctor lied to you when you were a kid as he jabbed your rear end with the pointy needle of a giant syringe as long as a broomstick? “This is going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you!” Did he really think we kids were dumb enough to fall for that baloney?
Pain is sometimes as mysterious as it is debilitating, and there are many different kinds of pain. At one time or another most of us have experienced emotional pain involving love, rejection, the agony of defeat and so on. This conforms to the time-honored Spanish proverb, “Where there is love, there is pain.”
The death of a loved one initiates a sensation of pain as intense as any physical pain imaginable. In fact, physical pain is quite often an expression of emotional pain. Truly, the list of different types of pain and their origins is simply too long to even begin.
John Patrick hoped to characterize pain as virtuous, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” Nice try, but when I accidentally smash my thumb with a hammer, the first thoughts that come to mind are definitely not about wisdom. Anyway, I have it on good authority (my wife) that guys are complete babies when it comes to pain. She says we would never survive the ultimate pain: childbirth. I am inclined to accept her word.
Pain is one of those things in life that is truly subjective. This means that you, alone, truly understand how utterly unbearable pain is at any given moment. This fact becomes evident when visiting a medical pain management specialist.
Doctor: “Describe your headache for me on a scale of one to ten.”
Patient: “Well doc, it feels like they used my head as the football yesterday for all four quarters in the Cowboys/Raiders game before someone stuffed it into a trash compacter that squeezed my temples together for three hours without stopping.”
Doctor: “Ooh, that sounds a little painful. I’ll mark you down for a six.”
The doctor then dutifully orders 317 separate diagnostic tests on your blood, urine, heart, lungs, head, appendix and gall bladder (as long as your insurance covers it), searching in vain for the hidden source of the pain.
Doctor: “Well Jimmy, the tests didn’t come up with anything, so your pain must all be in your head. Let’s see if this antidepressant takes care of it!”
In truth, all pain is in our head because pain exists as a perception inside the brain. (The exception to this rule is post-pubescent males whose brains migrate to a different location in their body for a few years; for some, this migration is permanent.) Pain is a nerve impulse, a message that travels along nerve pathways up to the brain from say, a thumb that has just been flattened with a determined but inaccurate hammer stroke.
This explains why mankind has over the centuries tried to avoid pain by blocking the pain signal from ever reaching the brain. Various drugs and other substances are capable of achieving this, temporarily. But, as J.K. Rowling noted, “Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.”
Blocking the pain signal to your brain is similar to ordering your mechanic to disconnect the engine warning light on the dashboard of your car. You no longer receive any notice of a problem, but you can bet the problem and the pain are both still waiting for you.
And that brings us to the question that has burned in the hearts and minds of humanity since our earliest beginnings: Why do we need pain? Does pain have a purpose in life?
To answer, suppose we waved a magic wand and eliminated all traces of pain from your body. Poof! Feels great, huh? So far, so good. Now, I notice you are leaning your hand on the surface of that hot wood-burning stove next to you. You of course do not feel the pain, but do you begin to smell the distinct aroma of seared flesh? Yuck, that’s your hand! He who feels no pain may cook his own goose.
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity,” Albert Einstein once said. It seems that pain is nature’s way of grabbing your attention to tell you that something needs taking care of. Keep ignoring it and nature will provide you with a stronger and stronger signal until you finally get it.
According to Edward Abbey, “There is science, logic and reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.” We might substitute, “…And then there is pain management.” An industry devoted to deriving profit from managing pain is unlikely to be too keen on eliminating its cause.
You may think your pain is killing you, but please be aware that many pain drugs now on the market can quickly and efficiently finish the job for you with a heart attack or stroke. Notable for such inconvenient side effects as these are the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) called Cox-2 inhibitors.
Luckily, a new story is replacing the outmoded concept of “managing” pain. In the new story, the importance of nutrition, exercise and related lifestyle factors take center stage. In place of NSAIDs, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oils) provides the body with the building blocks needed for non-inflammatory cell production.
The pain of normal daily activities has led millions of people to regularly consume pain medications widely known to inhibit cellular function and cause kidney, liver and heart failure. The new story includes specific chiropractic adjustments that can restore pain-free ranges of motion throughout the body while also enhancing nerve system function. This reduces or even eliminates the need for toxic drug therapies.
Certain nutritional deficiencies may be causing the cells in the body to chronically scream out (in pain) for proper nutrients. Also, certain foods in the diet may be causing pain through chronic allergic responses and intolerance. The relief experienced when the offending foods are eliminated and the nutritional deficiencies corrected may seem miraculous. It is simply the daily miracle of natural healing returning.
“Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep,” wrote Carl Sandburg. It is unreasonable to expect life to be pain-free. But then again, neither is it necessary to suffer – either from the pain or the consequences of pain management. As the old saying goes, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
© Darrel Crain, 2006 All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Opinions? Rants? Call Darrel Crain at 619-445-0100
Dr. Darrel Crain
Natural Health Writer
President, CCA San Diego County District
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