The Purpose of Pain

by Tony King, Certified Family Herbalist

When I looked up the word "pain" on Wikipedia, it described (physical) pain as... an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli, such as stubbing your toe, burning a finger, putting alcohol on a cut, and bumping the funny bone." It also said The International Association for the Study of Pain defined it as this: "Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." Wikipedia goes on to say that pain is the most common reason for physician consultation in the United States, and that's where I want to go with this article.

In terms of health, our bodies mainly communicate in either one of two ways: through pleasure or pain. This is not hard to see, for instance when you exercise and eat right, you more often than not have an elated, euphoric feeling throughout your body as well as a sense of optimism about life. Conversely, as a child when we fall down and scrape an elbow or knee, our pain receptors kick in and waves of unpleasantness fill our body. All we want is for the pain to stop, and believe it or not this is where the problems start. Raised in a western culture where allopathic (drug doctor) philosophy is the norm since the early 1900's, we are taught that when pain arises we should seek out pain relievers ASAP! In America, NSAID drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin are usually at the top of the list, with little regard as to how they will affect the body with long term use. There is nothing wrong with seeking pain relief, but have we asked ourselves what the body is trying to tell us with pain.

Let's take a newborn baby. It cries and cries until the parents figure out what it wants. The baby doesn't speak English or any formal language yet so all it can do is communicate by either crying or laughing and smiling(or hopefully sleeping); and yet there are abusive parents that will shake a baby, strike it, or worse just to stop it from crying. I would hope we all see what's wrong with that scenario. Let's look at another. Your vehicle has a dashboard with lights to alert you to a problem it's having. Would you take your vehicle to a mechanic and ask him to unhook the dashboard so you don't have to keep seeing that "check engine" light? If you did, how long do you think it would be before your engine fell out of your car? Do you get what I'm alluding to? So when you have pain in your body it's telling you two things: 1) where the problem is since most pain is acute and not general; and 2) that it wants the building blocks(nourishment) to make the necessary repairs to that area. Much of the time when we take a pain reliever we are doing nothing more than getting the body "high", much like they did in the 19th century when they gave patients opium and heroin for pain relief.

The body doesn't want to get high, the body wants to heal; and it does this with good quality proteins(if the pain is from and injury and needs tissue repair) and wholesome foods, and herbs if the situation is more critical. As we learn to shift out diets to a better quality of nutrition and avoid more of our vices, we should find that much of the pain we experienced in our prior life won't follow us into our present and future life. When the body gets what it's asking for, it "turns off" the pain to let you know you're going in the right direction. You wouldn't give a baby joint to keep it from crying, so don't get your body high when it's asking for what it wants; and when you give it what's it's asking for (good nutrition for repair and maintenance), just like the check engine light on a car will go off, so will the pain.

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