Though we hate pain, we rely on it much more then we know



The worlds favorite surgeon Meredith Grey

For many, a life without pain would be an unparalleled situation. Pain keeps us up at night, pain restricts us, pain is a roadblock, and whether emotional or physical, pain tends to be known objectively as negative. When we can push pain from the forefront of the mind, we do.

Pain is equated commonly with fear. When we are hurting, it is regularly accompanied by the fear of the unknown. I know for a fact I have openly ignored pain out of fear of what it may lead to. That is probably why I am sitting in bed unable to walk with a knee brace right now. My advice: probably go get that “sorta” hurting knee checked out. A few months may save a lot of time.

I spent about seven months suffering from a knee injury and being told to “use pain as my guide.” I decided unfortunately too late to visit our school’s trainer. When I spoke with him, he suggested I recognize the difference between being in pain and being sore. To make sure I was correctly measuring my tolerance, it was important to understand the separation between the two.

As an athlete, I regularly endure minor injuries. A swollen ankle or tired legs will never stand as a hindrance in accomplishing a prowess. I have accepted that I’ll just hurt and that is that. 

When does this blatant dismissal become harmful for my body?

The basis of pain is your nerves telling your brain your body needs to stop doing something. When your body endures an injury of some sort, your nerves then alert your brain that something is wrong. As a response, the brain enables pain so you will stop and alleviate further injury (“Why Do I Have Pain? (for Kids) – Nemours KidsHealth”).

While we hate the feeling of pain, our bodies are designed to feel pain as a sort of stoplight, detterring us from the use of a broken bone, or pushing us to get medicine or antibiotics.

While we hate the feeling of pain, our bodies are designed to feel pain as a sort of stoplight, detterring us from the use of a broken bone, or pushing us to get medicine or antibiotics. 

So where is the line drawn between pain and just being sore?

Feeling sore is regularly the result of placing stress on muscles, commonly referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This feeling is the result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers (“Understanding Muscle Soreness – How Much Is Too Much?”). Post-workout if you’ve ever been referred to a protein-heavy meal, this explains it.

If you’ve taken freshmen biology, you understand proteins serve as the building blocks for the body because they are constructed of amino acids. When eating protein-dense foods after placing strain on our muscles, they work to repair any damage.

Increasing protein and a light stretch after an intense workout can help to avoid DOMS, but true pain is not as simple. While life free from any pain seems to be ideal, it regularly causes much more harm than good.

To more deeply understand life separate from pain, we visit the Peripheral Neuropathy Disorder Congenital Insensitivity. When suffering from this disorder, individuals cannot feel any pain. Bruises, sores, and burns tend to compile and go unnoticed, and while that doesn’t seem necessarily major, without pain to express issues, broken bones and major health issues could lie completely off of one’s radar. 

Patients living with Congenital Insensitivity bear a shortened life expectancy, so while we view pain as a negative, it is what is keeping us alive (“Congenital Insensitivity to Pain: MedlinePlus Genetics”). 

While injury seems to be an optional hindrance in some athletes’ minds, it’s important to understand what the body is telling you so that future injury can be prevented. While no one likes pain, it is crucial to the success of our bodies. 

So while “pushing through the pain” and “no pain, no gain” are mindsets constantly drilled into our minds, to stay healthy in the long term, we should be aware of what our bodies want us to do.

It is important to recognize when we feel pain as opposed to feeling sore. Many athletes confuse the two, but it’s important to listen to your body. As I said earlier, pain is the brain’s way of telling you to stop. While we resent the feeling, pain is crucially important to our wellbeing. Pushing through sore works to an extent. Pain, on the other hand, warrants a response.