Monday, June 23, 2008

Take two aspirin and call in the morning

I haven’t been able to get to the keyboard for the last few days because I did something stupid when I was fifteen years old. I jumped from the back of a moving pickup truck.

Sure, that was forty-odd years ago, and the truck wasn’t moving very fast, but somewhere between the truck and the ground, I wrapped myself around a metal pole and injured my back. So now, all these years later, all I have to do is bend down just the wrong way to bring down upon myself a world of pain.

I did that last Wednesday.

Please don’t think that I am a whiner; I have suffered broken bones, dislocated my right shoulder five times, muddled through three major surgeries and survived two heart attacks, so I know what pain is. This was bad, a six point five on a ten-scale.

But, after five days of writhing in agony, I am on the mend, should be much better by next week-end, if I am very careful how I move until then. The whole thing has got me thinking about what pain is, though.

I mean, how does my perception of pain compare to everyone else? I have never lost a limb, never been shot or stabbed or beaten into senselessness, all of which, I am told, hurts like hell. So, how can I be sure, when I tell you that my pain falls at such and such a number along a scale, that I really did hurt that much?

The truth is, I can’t, and neither can anyone else.

Pain is subjective, so much so that one of the definitions used by the medical community is that “pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does."

Physical pain is the number one reason why people visit a doctor’s office; no other reason even comes close. There is even a joke about it, one with a million variations.

Doctor: What’s the problem?

Patient: It hurts when I lift my right arm.

Doctor: Don’t lift your right arm.

And, although your doctor can give you prescription medication to numb the pain , there is really only one thing that will eliminate pain—time.

There’s an aphorism about that. Time heals all wounds.

So, be safe, watch your step and be careful out there. And, if not, try to grin and bear it until it gets better.