Painful Nonsense

No pain, no gain.


What’s painful is gainful only part of the time. While pain serves a vital role in keeping us alive, it can also be grossly overbearing, notoriously unreliable and sadistically redundant.

“I’m not saying the body isn’t amazing in many ways. It is.” writes A. J. Jacobs in Drop Dead Healthy:

But at the same time, the body has many deeply embedded bugs. … And pain is one of the crudest, most primal systems. Pain is so unsubtle. Couldn’t evolution (or God) have found a better way to alert us that we stubbed our toe (r)ather than this sensation that makes us curse the day our mom and dad met at the college cafeteria?

Pain can erupt with no cause, linger for years, even appear in a phantom limb. And here’s one of pains most sadistic qualities: If you suffer from chronic pain (as 70 million Americans do), it often doesn’t ebb as the body heals. It often gets worse. Pain begets pain. The neural pathways become smoother, the message stronger.

In the wake of losing his wife, C. S. Lewis asked, “Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it), which will make pain not to be pain. It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill goes on.”

What matters is finding a dentist who is generous with the procaine hydrochloride.

Now I’m off for my third rotator cuff surgery, to be followed by a slow and painful recovery period. Just wanted to post this paltry protest against pain before the hydrocodone/paracetamol kicks in.


4 thoughts on “Painful Nonsense

  1. Pain? What pain? 3 months with debilitating, but thankfully relenting, cervical spinal stenosis pain, tingling, and numbness. “From C2 to C7, your neck is an absolute train wreck. It would cost a quarter million dollars to fix it. There’s nothing we can do for you.” Of course, only later do I find out the neurosurgeon’s company is owned by the same mega-corp as my insurance company. Coincidence? I think not.

    Pain? What pain? 9 long years with debilitating, unrelenting, chronic headache. “It’s all in your head,” my doctor told me. Precisely! “Whatever you do, don’t touch caffeine. Otherwise, there’s nothing you can do.” 9 long years later, I was on the Oregon coast for the day with nothing to drink except Coca-Cola. Voila–my headache disappeared temporarily. Another doctor showed me an easy-to-learn, easy-to-do neck exercise that eliminated my chronic headache forever (well, 20 years so far).

    Pain? What pain? 12 long years with debilitating, unrelenting, fibromyalgia.

    Yet, all of this is nothing compared to the devastating waves of pain you’ve suffered.

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