What a Pain!


A nuisance,  distress, suffering, agony, ache, ….all can be explained by use of the simple word ‘pain’. Is this because we have no universal definition of pain, so we use our own subjective feeling, in much the same way as we use the word ‘beauty’ or ‘pleasure’?

Scientifically, it is a signal sent from a seat of ‘disturbance’ in an area of the body, which activates in the central nervous system a response (via motor neurons) to take actions to prevent further damage happening (e.g. moving one’s hand away from a flame), and also learn, so that it is less likely to happen in the future.

We all suffer at one time or another, from toothache, to a bashed thumb, from a bad back to a thumping headache, or even migraine. And yet, unless there is obvious physical damage, such as bleeding or injury, it is very difficult to feel pain for others, or indicate the extent of our own pain.

Recently I have seen Son in obvious agony over a period of time, but could only empathise properly if I had experienced the same pain for the same length of time.

The word itself comes from the Latin poena, meaning retribution or punishment, but I cannot feel this to be a fully useful or valid meaning. There may be some fault laid at our door in that we can and do abuse our bodies by neglect, or over-exercise, by over-eating or starvation, but there are still situations where we cannot be held to have contributed.

This is still an area where we must ‘go it alone’ in our life. We can only receive compassion and give sympathy to a certain extent, and when the pain-killers have worn off we are left with an un-platable, but very real experience.

Fortunately, for most of us this is for a limited time, but one can only admire the fortitude of those who carry this beyond their forseeable future.

Oh, dear….and senior years loom ahead for us!

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2 thoughts on “What a Pain!

  1. Pain is not retribution or punishment.Physical pain is an unfortunate side effect of a)an accident b) a deteriorating condition or c) an inherent disability.
    It is possible to empathise,particularly if you love and care for the victim of the pain and if there is open communication and understanding. Pain is very subjective. Only the individual knows his/her threshold of pain and this is why it is important to communicate.there is a real problem re the mental hurt of people with anxieties and the stress of relatives and carers. We must never underestrimate the effect of mental illness which is not an uncommon condition in society.

  2. Thanks, Kenneth for your comments gained from a personal viewpoint. My point on retribution is that if we abuse our body (by drink, smoking, or other harmful activities) then we must expect it to rebel to try to get us to stop doing what is harming it.

    Pain can be one result, and hopefully will help to restore equilibrium by natural means, by permiting rest etc.

    The question of whether sympathy or empathy applies may well differ from one situation to another and I must accept that your experience again is more valuable than my speculation.

    Anyone else out there who would like to shed some light from their experience?

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