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Can You Feel Their Pain?

Aug 8, 2008
There are two kinds of physical pain. The acute kind goes away as the body heals itself. The chronic kind lasts at least six months after the healing process is completed. Although there are both over-the-counter and prescription medications for acute pain, the treatment of the chronic kind usually includes therapy, as well as medication. Physical therapy, such as stretching and strengthening, can reduce discomfort. So can low-impact exercise, such as walking and swimming. Behavioral therapy, such as meditation and yoga, can help patients relax and decrease their stress. Lifestyle changes help too. The most important lifestyle change in this regard is to stop smoking. Not only can nicotine interfere with medications, but people who smoke experience more pain than people who don't. Smokers also cause more pain - in the necks of non-smokers.

Until the 1980's scientists thought that itching was a very mild form of pain and that it was transmitted along pain receptors. Wrong. Although itching can be traced to something in the skin, itching can also be caused by things like jaundice or brain tumors. Even the word itch can make us scratch because it has a strong suggestive power. An ant crawling on the inside of our thigh or a feather lightly touching the inside of our forearm - I think these examples of the word's suggestive power are up to scratch.

Thankfully, researchers at Stanford University have come up with ways for us to think away our pain. One way is to shift attention from the painful area of our body to a part of the body farthest from that area. Another way is to re-calibrate the level of discomfort - instead of thinking of it as severe or dehabilitating, we should think of it as harmless or weak. The suggestion I like best is to visualize healing processes at work on the painful area of our body. I'm going to visualize Pierce Brosnan.

Not all pain, however, is physical. There's also the emotional kind and there is one kind of emotional pain where numbers can speak for themselves. The number of American adults who experience chronic pain is 86 million. The number of American married couples in 2005 was 57,957,000. The divorce rate in 2005 was the lowest it has been since 1970. From these numbers I think it's safe to conclude that many of the 86 million American sufferers are learning to live with pain.
About the Author
KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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