On Pain

Posted April 28th, 2012

On Pain

by Tiger Tom

Pain is not outside of life; is not something foreign to the living organism. Those strange writhing movements of the body in pain are as vital as the more healthy actions of the normal person in doing work. Contortions, as seen in pain, are not the actions of a stranger, but of the pained body itself. Pain is not desirable, but it is one thing to silence the nerves of sensation and quite another to remove the cause of the pain. — Dr. Herbert Shelton.


I had a question sent in about my last column from writer Diane Rozario, who wants to know why I said pain is necessary and why I said doctors should not be so quick to get rid of it.

This question is too easy. I, Tiger Tom, with no reference books, using only 1/4 of my brain, and with three paws tied behind me, can quickly answer it.

It is obvious that pain is necessary and very important because it exists. Bodies, tiger or human or anteater, have no unnecessary parts; neither do they have unnecessary gestures, sensations, and activities. Coughing, belching, hiccupping, frowning, spitting, wheezing, twitching, snorting, weeping, snarling, blinking, yawning, farting, flinching, sneezing, smiling, itching, licking, pouting, slobbering, shivering, laughing, grieving, groaning, hurting–all have their purpose.

Pain is not a disease. It plays a big role in the way the body conducts its business and is Nature’s main means of communication. Even people can understand its most obvious usefulness. It protects you from catching fire if your tail gets in the stove while you are asleep. It tells you when you have eaten too much salami..

What humans do not catch on to is that pain’s main role is teaching. Both in a physical and in a moral sense. People think they learn by having things explained to them. Manshit. That’s just the way you like to think you learn things. Real learning comes from pain. “By what men fall, by that they rise.” This wise yoga saying means: You screw up, life whacks you in the chops, and you go home a smarter tiger. For those who do not believe that pain is the best teacher, I, Tiger Tom, propose the following human experiment:

Take a large group of human cubs and divide them into three equal groups. Give the nippers in Group A a big lecture series on how not to burn themselves on hot stoves. Show them pictures of kids with singed parts. Tell them many times, “No, no, no! Hot!” With Group B you don’t tell them anything. Just take each little fellow to a red hot stove and mash one of his little hands against it until it sizzles. Don’t tell him anything. Just singe his little hand. Group C is the control group. These kids get no lecture, no pain. I, Tiger Tom, bet my stripes that if you keep records on how good these subjects are at avoiding stove bums for the next few years the cubs in Group B will will win paws down. I further bet that Group A won’t do better than Group C.

Pain doesn’t just teach simple lessons like stove avoidance. It’s a central part of the body’s feedback and information system that supports healing. Killing pain is like killing the messenger who brings bad news No more messenger, no more news. Probably teeth with holes in them could fix themselves if people were not so quick to kill the messenger. How can the body correct a condition causing a headache if people refuse to experience the headache? The weird practice of aspirin gobbling keeps the whole repair system in a state of ignorance and confusion. Do people really believe that the elaborate pain-sensing system exists just to tell them when they need to take an Advil?

You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broke. That’s my motto.