Laughing in the Face of Pain


We’ve all heard about people who “laugh in the face of pain”. They can undergo any trauma or torment without flinching. They withstand extreme hardship with a smile. They don’t complain. Never complain. Ever.

These people are admired. They are either seen as superheroes or saints.

The superheroes are physically tough, tougher than ordinary people. They can take anything. They simply don’t seem to feel pain. Stereotypically, they are male. They laugh with big, booming laughs, take a licking and keep on ticking.

The saints feel pain, but they don’t complain about it. They just lie there and take it. Saints often have fatal diseases, or have a lot of babies. Hence, they are often female. Not a word of complaint leaves their (often) pale lips. They suffer, and their suffering elevates them to beautiful, beatific sainthood.

Sometimes women are the tough ones. Tough old birds, most often. And men can suffer in silence as well. In fact, that expectation of suffering in silence can lead to complications, because these superheroic, flinchless wonders rarely seek treatment until it’s too late.

We don’t seem to question that these people exist. As a society, we seem to accept that there are some people who are simply immune to pain.

So why can’t this society accept that the opposite exists at the same time? If there are those who feel no pain, then there must be those who feel more than their fair share of pain.

If people are willing to accept people who feel less pain, why can’t they accept that some people are more susceptible to pain?

It makes sense that pain sensitivity exists along a continuum. So why are people unwilling to accept that while most people exist somewhere in the middle, there are indeed people who fall at both ends of that spectrum?

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Don’t Talk About That!

Here’s the biggest problem when you have chronic pain and you go to family dinners.

No. One. Wants. To Hear. About. It.

That’s not a problem if you have loads of other things to talk about – if you’ve seen lots of good movies, or you’ve read lots of great books, or you have a enthralling job, or you know oodles and oodles of fascinating people.

The thing is, if you’ve got bad chronic pain, you can’t really go out to see a lot of movies. (more…)

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 2:35 am  Comments (7)  
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The Math of Pain

I just heard a bit on Quirks and Quarks about pain, and how if you, say, catch a Frisbee when your hands are cold it hurts more. The upshot was that if your hands are already somewhat in pain because of the cold, then the impact of the Frisbee will cause even more pain.

Pain plus more pain equals MORE pain.

So if you’re already sore from an injury, a stimulus that might not ordinarily seem painful to you will hurt. A lot. Like someone touching you in a gentle, loving fashion when you have a recent, raging sunburn. You ordinarily enjoy being stroked and coddled, but that sunburn turns the pleasant into something unbearably unpleasant.

And if you have chronic pain, (more…)

Published in: on April 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pain is a tricky subject

Pain is a tricky subject.

Pain does not stand alone. It does not exist unless there is someone to feel it. It is not noticeable unless the person who feels it indicates it’s there.

Pain cannot be measured objectively. Its effects can sometimes be measured in muscle contraction or neural activity or temperature or swelling, but the degree to which those things can be determined does not necessarily correspond to the amount of pain that is felt. It’s not the same for everyone. (more…)

Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment