It’s Not All About Pain, People!

Pardon my rant for moment and please consider what I am about to say. Pain is a symptom or an indicator. Pain is annoying. Pain can be frustrating. Pain can even be debilitating. Treating for pain, however, is a terrible way help someone get out of pain.

The origins of pain are not well understood and can be a very deep topic. That saying, from my study, most of our pain is distributed through the limbic center of the brain. The limbic system is really the emotional center of the brain. So, to me, pain is an emotional response. Ever notice that some people have a high pain threshold and others have little to none? Likewise, some cultures are very stoic about pain while others are extremely passionate. The very same stimulus can be applied but the reaction is completely different.

Don’t get me wrong. Pain is very real. I am not suggesting we write off anyone in pain with the idea that it is all in their head. What I am suggesting is that we keep pain in perspective. Bad pain does not always mean horrible damage. Likewise, some of the most serious damage to the human body can display very little pain. Furthermore, pain can be a good thing when it gives a warning that something can be harmful. Have you ever stepped on hot sand and immediately pulled away so you didn’t burn your feet? What if you were a diabetic with poor blood circulation and therefor poor feeling in your feet. Would you say that it was a good thing to burn your feet because you couldn’t feel it? Of course not!

Rather than focus on the pain of an injury, I like to focus on the rehabilitation or function. If we only treated for pain, very few people would ever recover. Rehabilitating an injury whether chronic or acute can be painful. Let me say that again, TREATMENT CAN BE PAINFUL!  Sometimes we have to break down a lot of scar tissue. This will be painful. When you are dealing with functional and physical medicine, like chiropractic, the end result is to get you functional which will eventually lead to less pain. By the way, this takes time.

Please don’t kid yourself that you can rehabilitate an injury without pain or discomfort. It is just not how the body works. Would you expect to work with a personal trainer to get in shape and never feel soreness or fatigue? Instead, focus on improving function and accept pain for what it is. In the words of the Dred Pirate Roberts aka Westley from The Princess Bride, -“Life is pain, your highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”


  1. I have a very low tolerance for pain, so the last thing I want to hear is that there could be more pain before there will be less pain. But being in pain has motivated me to take more steps to keep myself healthy to avoid pain later. So perhaps the end justifies the means.

    Although the message was not one I wanted to consider, the end quote made the article worth reading. The Princess Bride is my all time favorite movie.

  2. Being a good husband, I’ve resisted the temptation of saying to my wife: “Life is pain, princess”. Of course, after 40, I think it really is. But at least Jared helps me keep it down to a dull roar.

  3. This is a great article and explanation of pain – cause, reaction, etc. Definitely has me thinking. The Princess Bride quote has taken you to yet a higher place in my respect for you Dr. Thomas. 🙂

  4. I’ve noticed myself how pain increases during emotionally stressful times for me. I can control this to some degree with mental relaxation. Chiropractic is helpful too!

  5. I like your analogy about physical fitness training – you cannot expect to get in better shape, tone muscles, etc. without feeling some level of pain, discomfort or whatever.

    Also, I learned first-hand recently about treating the cause of the sympton of pain rather than just treating it “where it hurt”.

    I’m on board!!!

  6. Oh my, that wonderful chiropractic adjustment. I’ll go through a little more pain (or should I say a different type of pain) to build up a higher pain tolerance for all my old annoying pains.

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