Back to the index of Quality of Life


Pain is the natural way of our body to warn us of damage to our body or soul. Essentially it is there to protect us. Some of us may think that we would be better off not being able to feel pain, but that would cause serious problems. A case in point is Leprosy, which is an illness that block us from feeling pain. People who suffer from Leprosy cannot feel it when they are over-stressing their bodies. e.g. Try pulling a nail out of a piece of wood using your fingers. Soon, you would find it hurts and say, this is too tight for me to pull and stop your efforts. A person suffering from Leprosy would not feel anything and carry on until his hand is bleeding. That is why these people often look emaciated, because they have damaged their body accidentally, not because the illness eats their skin.

Pain is also very debilitating. This makes sense, because that is its purpose, to stop us from carrying on doing damage to ourselves. However, the body does not always know what is good for us. e.g. After you have overstressed your muscles, as when starting a new exercise program, you will feel pain in all those muscles that have worked so hard. Physically, they are loaded with lactic acid, that should be removed. The only way to remove the acid is by good circulation. This can be accomplished by alternating hot and cold, but also by more, but gentle, exercises. How do you exercise when you're in pain? You use an analgesic (like ASA or a topical salicilate) or you ignore the pain or both. Another method is to do the opposite and use a topical stimulant such as red pepper or menthol, which creates another pain canceling the original one.

Ignoring pain is not as hard as people think. Meditation or diversion can help. The first one by 'emptying' your mind, the latter by 'filling' it. This must be done with care so that only those pains are ignored that need to be ignored. Feel sorry for yourself has the opposite effect, it enhances the pain experience, by focusing on it. Little children are very good at that, as they can cry quickly but also 'forget' their pain just as quickly. A good parent knows how to train his/her kids to manage pain properly. That does not mean that it is not healthy to feel sorry for your self, but one should really question how far this can go and take over one's life. Grief is a good example of this. It is definitely natural and healthy to grieve over a loss, whether a person or a material loss. But, if it takes control of you and prevents you from functioning, then there is reason to change and learn to cope with it.

The debilitating part of pain can go far beyond its original purpose. It can virtually take over the mind, making it impossible to think or to function. It can seriously affect our Quality of Life, as it can interfere with acting and enjoying even the most simple part of our existence. It can be so strong that ignoring it will take a tremendous will power and skill or it will not be able to be controlled at all without any external painkiller, drug or counseling.

e.g. We may feel resentful of a person who does us harm, but letting this make us become hateful to him or a whole class of people should be considered over-reacting. In contrast, Jesus of Nazareth taught that we should be forgiving, so we will not be consumed by our own resentment. He even suggested that we should go one step further and 'go the other mile'.


Fear is the feeling we get when threatened by pain. Fear, when relatively small, can spurr us into actionto prevent or to accept the pain. However, when big, it can overcome our ability to cope. We can become paralysed. I have seen a young man literally frozen on the spot, yelling: "Fire!, fire!" when a pan in front of him, containing acetone caught fire and threw up a flame of six foot high. The fire extinguisher, was six feet to the right of him, bu he could not move, is body was as stiif as a board. When I came down from a catwak and took the lid and placed it on the pan, extinguishing the flames, his body went linmp, his mouth fell open and he could move again.

Trauma, may result in phobia, just as pain can result in fear. The difference being that instead of a single incident, we are getting a conditon that reacts to many unrelated but similar incidents. This is like learning to flee when there is a perceived threat. This can be considered a form of over-reaction to a sudden massive dose of pain. Why do we call it over-reaction? Because it appears that our usual resilience, which should have snapped us back, was overcome, preventing us from functioning.

"Fear for the unknown" is another form of fear that most of us suffer from in one form or another. Depending on the amount of self confidence we have developed, we are more or less able to tackle uncertainties. This is not unreasonable. When we know what the consequences can be of a negative outcome of an 'exeperiment', which is a venture into the unknown, we can be apprehensive and fear so much that we do not take action. If we are smart, we will try to break down the experiment in smaller chunks with less risk, thus with less to fear. If we do not have the knowledge of what could go wrong, we could be very 'courageous'. Courage is a condition of confidence, where we consider the risk acceptable for the cause on hand. Lack of knowledge or lack of fear can make us over-confident, accepting high risks. However, true 'heros' are neither, they risk their life for another, fully well knowing the high risk, yet praying that their individual case lies outside the 3 sigma limit of the actual statistical distribution.


Chronic pain seriously affects our Quality of Life since there is no end to it, unless we can get to its source. It is a kind of pain that whereas you out, since it is always there and never lets off. Aging often causes chronic pain by permanent deterioration of body functions. This is why aging has become the focus of the Quality of Life improvement movement. Osteo-arthritis in the knees is an example of a very common occurrence in the elderly. It causes pain in the knees which makes it very hard to get up and go without falling through the support of the legs who seem almost paralyzed by the pain.

Fortunately, as we age, also our perception of pain goes down somewhat. In addition we have learned to bear more and to complain less. But while that may make it a bit more bearable, it does not do much for our Quality of Life. Activity and distraction are still two of the best means of combatting this situation. Often this must yet be amended with pain killers. Maybe the limited use of alcohol or pot is justified at this time. That is if the liver can take it and the potis used by the patient only. Trouble is there is always a criminal element lurking around the corner to take what is good and make it bad.