In Sickness and in Health

Screaming BabyI find it fascinating how different people react differently to pain. Nociception is defined as the perception of pain. And it is this tricky little concept that is particularly interesting. Apparently, the nociceptors (receptors for noxious pain) are situated in lots of places around the body and can pick up cutaneous pain, somatic pain and visceral pain. Interestingly, cutaneous pain is easier to pinpoint but doesn’t last long. Visceral pain is the more dull throbbing that we feel, but lasts for much longer. Generally because we have fewer nociceptors in areas that pick up this kind of pain. At least that’s what I think it is.

My point?

I’d like us all to consider pain. In my time I’ve watched lots of war films and always wondered why soldiers often throw up after taking a bullet to the limb, chest, wherever. It is, of course, because of the pain. I won’t go into the ins and outs of it all but I’ve also experienced excrutiating pain which has had me writhing on the floor, made me feel dizzy and caused me to vom my guts out. I remember lying in my bed hoping and praying that the pain would go away and thinking that if the pain didn’t subside then I would surely lose my sanity. I also remember weeping like a small child when the pain stopped. I was ecstatic that it was gone and I felt truly free. It was, I suppose, a kind of enlightened feeling.

I can’t help wondering then that pain and nociception are very important stages in our perception of the world. As someone once said “Life is pain”. Yes, perhaps. But experiencing it and then managing to come out the other end is truly amazing. But what of those who do not make it and are not able to cope with pain? Are they in some way weaker individuals than others? Is there an in-built mechanism for pain tolerance that makes up better candidates for natural selection? In today’s world where medicine is moving towards a state of pain-numbing and -relief will this valuable reflex one day disappear? Will we regret it?

2 thoughts on “In Sickness and in Health

  1. I had a lot of different pains throughout my short life (fractures, cuts, burns, internal organs damage- you name it) and let me tell you one thing- pain shapes character. Surviving and conquering my pain made me a stronger person, plus it made me to appreciate life and world more. I guess it even made me think more (I simply realized I’m not immortal and I don’t have an unlimited number of days ahead of me).

    Another thing: pain is a warning signal, not a sickness. If you remove it, how will you know something is not right?

    I understand, basing on my own example, that pain resistance can be built up and has not much to do with inheriting. It’s like with allergies and natural resistance to infections.

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