Over the years I have consulted with many people experiencing pain in my chiropractic office as well as spoken to many more out and about regarding both the pain they have and are experiencing. I have been amazed at how differently people perceive this pain, the meaning they give it, and the outcomes they receive as a result of their perceptions and actions.
After 16 years of observing these patterns I have noticed what I call ‘The Pain Paradox,’ and the havoc it reeks on some people’s lives.
Imagine that you own a car. Cars require a certain amount of care to keep them running smoothly. Some people invest a great deal of time, effort and resources into maintaining their automobiles. Others…not so much.
Let’s say that you are a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ kind of person. Meaning, you place no attention on car care unless there is something noticeably wrong. When the gas light shows empty, you fill it up. When the oil light comes on, you change the oil. When the car won’t start, you call a mechanic. Your entire car care focus is fixing problems.
Here is where the paradox comes in. What is the outcome that results from focusing on fixing problems – compared to someone who focuses on proper maintenance or optimal performance? That’s right, lots of problems to fix.
‘The Pain Paradox’ works the same way, except that it is much more prevalent (most people understand the wisdom of proper automobile maintenance).
Many folks do not give their health a second thought until something goes wrong. There is no focus, no attention, no investment in health until there is pain or disease. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
To go further, when confronted with pain many people are happy to just place a Band-Aid over the symptom, or secondary condition. There is no thought about addressing what may be the primary cause of their discomfort. This would be akin to filling the engine with motor oil only to have it leak out of a hole in the line.
So, we have a (fairly large) population whose main health care focus in getting rid of pain, yet – like the person who only pays attention to their broken car – this approach is actually a significant contributor to them experiencing the pain they want to avoid. THIS is ‘The Pain Paradox.’
‘The Pain Paradox’ has nothing to do with intelligence – it is just what most of us have been taught. It is an unconscious default for most. That fact, however does not diminish the suffering it causes for so many people.
Those caught in this paradox not only experience more pain but they are frustrated by the fact they are getting what they don’t want. Also, by nature, their problems tend to get worse over time and they will often complain about the negative effects of ‘getting old.’
The people with whom I work who tend to be the healthiest and happiest are those who have escaped ‘The Pain Paradox.’ At some point they realize that it just wasn’t working. The first step is they start looking for the underlying, primary conditions or patterns that lie deeper to their secondary symptoms. They replace the oil line instead of filling up the old, leaky one.
Once the primary conditions are handled, the healthiest people I know shift their focus not only maintaining their health, but building it. They take regular action that builds their health, whether they are experiencing pain or not. As a result, they tend to get healthier as they get older instead of the opposite.
Everyone wants to be healthy and have a body that allows them to do what they want to do. Don’t get caught in ‘The Pain Paradox.’ If you have been, it is okay – acknowledge it. Now, a healthier future is possible.