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12/12/2005 - 4:40pm

Pain Killers


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This isn't some dramatic literary title to get your attention to this entry -- It's actually about pain killers (aspirin, tylenol, etc).

Let's first go back hundreds of thousands or even millions of years way back in the earlier stages of human evolution, so we can look at the origins of pain. While pain to us is sometimes a minor annoyance, and sometimes much worse, it serves an actual purpose. Consider the caveman. What happened when he accidentally cut himself on some sharp rock? He would bleed, and feel pain; which would then cause him to take some sort of action to stop the bleeding, which in turn would soothe the pain.

Without Mr. Caveman having felt any pain, he really had no motivation to stop the bleeding. There was no concern about getting blood stains on his new carpet, or dripping elsewhere. In fact, it's rather safe to say that if bleeding didn't cause Mr. Caveman to feel any pain, he likely would bleed to death if the cut and blood flow were severe enough.

It's this pain that gives someone motivation to relieve the pain. In earlier days, before medicine, this meant curing the cause. Pain caused by a sliver jammed into your hand could be relieved by removing the sliver. Your body is causing you pain because it's telling you to take some sort of action. In this case, "Get this sliver out of your hand!" With the sliver remaining, it's likely an infection would occur and cause yet more damage.

However, civilization and technology advances much faster than evolution. This has caused the advent of pain killers, medicines that trick our brains into thinking that there is no pain. While causing a short-term benefit, this can cause some serious problems.

When you work out, your muscles become sore (if you're doing it right, anyway). This soreness is an indication that your muscles are damaged and need to repair themselves (this is a normal process in building muscle). If you decide, instead, to use some sort of pain killer to numb this pain to continue working out, you're doing the exact opposite of what it is that your body wants you to do. Continued activity using these muscles will cause them to sustain further damage, possibly permanent.

When your body is in pain, it's telling you to fix something. This is true with any pain that you feel, including scratches, scrapes, muscle aches, stomach aches, headaches, etc. Using medicine to remove the pain removes only the pain, not the potentially more serious thing that may be causing the pain. If your oven is burning your dinner, do you simply open the windows to let out the smoke, or do you turn off the oven to alleviate the cause of the smoke?

This is not to mean that there aren't pain killers that have their place. In some cases, the short-term benefits remain without any long-term pitfalls. An example would be the shot given by a dentist before drilling into your teeth. The cause of the pain is obvious and known, and it's known that it will normally heal itself within 24 hours. Of course, this is by no means a reason that you must sustain this pain.

Pain killers are bad psychologically, in that they remove the motivation for the person in pain to repair the cause of the pain. A proper use of pain killers would be to use them short-term while remembering to repair the cause of the pain as soon as possible, not just to remove the pain itself.



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Posted by: Irene Decker
09/27/2007 5:31am

Stupid healthyism. I wish you the rheumatism I had since childhood.

Posted by: Nick Coons
09/29/2007 9:30am

Irene,

A little over-sensitive, don't ya think?

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