The Problem of Pain

No pain, no gain. It’s words like these that have been instilled in our culture, driving home the idea that pain is always a good thing, that we aren’t really trying hard enough unless we’re hurting.

But that’s just not true. Pain usually tells us when we’ve done something we shouldn’t have (e.g. twisting an ankle) or when we’ve done too much (overstretching a muscle).

Pain tells us when something’s wrong.

Some people don’t understand that a lot of pain has a muscular origin. Clients come to me for massage, knowing that it will make them feel better but maybe not quite knowing why. That isn’t to say they think their pain arises from somewhere else; they just haven’t put much thought into it. The point is that they hurt and they want the pain to go away.

But then, not everyone minds the pain as much as they probably should. I’ve had too many clients tell me about their pain but then follow it up with “but it’s alright, I can pretty much just ignore it now”. As if ignoring the pain is just as good as doing what needs to be done to make the pain stop. Because, again, there’s too much in this culture that frames pain as something just to work through, something you shouldn’t let hold you back.

Some people I’ve talked to are hesitant about getting massages at all (despite their constant pain) because they don’t want to be made aware of all their muscle problems. They just don’t want to know how much they hurt.

Awareness is a funny thing. If you’re aware of your pain – if you know where you hurt, why you hurt – then you’ll be more likely to take care of it. But what if treatment doesn’t work? I imagine that’s what most people are afraid of: being stuck with acute awareness of their problems but not knowing how to solve them. So instead, they avoid thinking about the pain, continuing on with life as best they can without confronting the underlying issues. Ah, blissful ignorance.

But the pain is still there; sometimes with unresolved muscle issues (as basic as a knot or a trigger point), sometimes not. Untreated pain can lead to serious injuries (for example, in athletes) or become a chronic condition:

[From chronicpain.org]”Chronic pain disables more people than cancer or heart disease. It costs the U.S. economy more than $90 billion per year in medical costs, disability payments, and productivity.”

Yikes!

People (usually friends, sometimes not) tell me all the time about their pains and muscle problems. Comes with the territory, I suppose. I always empathize, trying my best to understand their situation and feel their pain. But then I try to help – usually with a quick massage on the affected area or by teaching them a useful stretch. Sometimes they’re taken aback, as if they weren’t looking for a solution; they just wanted to tell me their problems. But what if the answer is really as easy as a massage?

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