My favourite ad to hate on TV advertises a pain relief medication, which I won’t name. But the catchphrase is ‘it’s my choice’ (which has all sorts of double meanings), and it features someone trying to be fit and healthy by running up some steps. It gets my goat because it sums up some of our society’s rather stupid views on what health and fitness is all about.
Masking pain is deemed entirely acceptable, and often encouraged, instead of actually finding out what is causing the pain and addressing that.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is no place for using medications for pain relief. Obviously there are many instances where this is by far the best choice. But my concern is when we choose to ignore a problem that can actually be improved or resolved, yet we don’t because its ‘easier’ to pop a pill and feel ‘better’.
I know I have strong opinions, but I do have reasons for my rant, so here is an explanation.
Pain is the body’s warning mechanism to alert us to the fact that there is something not as it should be. It is very effective at doing this as it is often far from pleasant, so the desire to avoid pain in humans is usually strong. It is also reasonably obvious that if we are doing the best thing for the problem the pain reduces, and vice versa if we are not.
I like the analogy that hiding pain without understanding it is like smashing the warning light on the dashboard of your car. It may be less annoying that the warning light is off but the problem is still there, and your car may conk out at the most inconvenient time.
If we unnecessarily mask pain then how do we know if we are making the problem worse?
It is sadly common for people to hide the pain and then go and exercise because they are ‘feeling better’. Of course, this often does more damage and results in longer suffering.
On the flip side, if we mask the pain, how do we know if our problem has got better unless we stop the pain relief? I have seen many people stop pain relief meds and then realise that they have no pain when they stop. They may have been unnecessarily taking pain relief for days.
So being able to listen to the body, with respect to what we are doing and its impact on the pain, can be a very useful start to understanding what is going on. It certainly is a critical part of an assessment when we are examining people in a clinic.
Again, I am not saying not to use pain relief, but just be mindful about how and when you are using it. Most importantly, get some appropriate help to find out what is going on.
Eugene Sims, Warkworth Natural Therapies