Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about pain, and how it affects human beings. Being in health care, the fitness industry, with DDI-stinkin-P, and recollecting of Marine Corps training, I am a student of the phenomenon; experienced it personally and have seen it affect the people in my life in a variety of ways – mostly bad.
Patients come in, reporting pain always: “Describe its quality and rate it 1-10.” As a doctor, I listen the story of injury and sympathize with the individual. Pain is a signal that we use to help them diagnose their problem, and the first goal of treatment is invariably, to alleviate pain.
DDIP is all about forcing bodily adaptation through exercise. PT is, generally, a stress that we impose upon the anatomy. The body takes in the work and, if delivered in measured doses with adequate time for recuperation, it becomes stronger, faster and more efficient. We experience results, in the form of weight lost, muscle gain, and increased performance.
Training is often uncomfortable, though. However, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is, for so many, a rewarding sensation, associated with a good workout. Consider phrases such as, “No pain, no gain!” We instinctively realize that the hard work we put in in the gym will pay off, and regard the “good pain” is a small price to pay for goals attained. I’m an advocate of this logic, so long as it is practiced with moderation, rest and nutrition.
Marines have a different relationship with pain, we have been rewired. Back in my Marine Corps days, it may have been peacetime, but we trained for war. We embraced the philosophies: The More We Sweat in Peace, the Less We Bleed in War and Pain Is Weakness Leaving the Body. On formation runs, a popular cadence went, …”Pain, in my head…in my back…in my legs, I don’t care – I like it there! Mind over matter: if you don’t mind, the pain doesn’t matter.” When we were out on patrol, humping through the bush in a downpour, laden with heavy gear and weaponry; far away from our families, we were encouraged to EMBRACE THE SUCK! I could go on and on with the USMC-isms, but reflecting on this arduous training, it occurs to me that the goal was to harden us mentally. Consequently, to quit on ourselves (not to mention the team) by falling out of a run, march or training exercise was not an option. Most of us would sooner have died or gone to the BAS, our sick bay. On a personal level, this no-quit philosophy turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I respect pain, but fear it not and will always get back up when life knocks me down. You have to be a little crazy but it’s a workable game-plan for life.
Anatomically, pain is a message, sent by our nervous systems to inform us that damage is occurring. There are little sensors throughout our tissues that transmit information about pain and temperature, for instance. If you grab a hot skillet handle, this sensor fires off before your brain even gives it a thought: REMOVE HAND OR YOU’LL BURN IT OFF! The ouch only arrives later.
In your skin and joints, there are other sensors that mediate pressure and vibration – our sense of touch. These little buggers tell us what’s going on, say, in the spine or knee, as we take a jog. Let’s say you twist your ankle: all these sensory alarms fire off like so many sirens. The brain processes the info and ultimately acts on them, stopping you along your run to stretch it out or limp home. If you LISTEN to your body, training both hard and smart, you will live to fight another day.
One thing that really chaps my anus, is when people DON’T listen. We could be talking about a physical problem here, or some other life challenge. Perhaps it’s a matter of a foolish mistake on the job or a dysfunctional relationship, the “pain” felt is relative, and the alarms going off in your brain must be similarly heeded. Because the thing is, if we go about life intelligently, learning from our mistakes, we don’t have to experience the same pain over and over, now do we? But there’s something about the human race and that extra brain capacity we possess – it’s as if we have an over-sized computer that is capable of limitless calculations and some of us are content on using it to play Solitaire.
LISTEN: et your head out of your ass. Listen to your body. Harden yourself physically AND mentally. Be unafraid of pain and failure. Choose to act, don’t react, reading the plays on every situation.
CHANGE…BEFORE YOU HAVE TO!
“Pain don’t hurt.”
Patrick Swayze as Dalton