Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pain, Pain, Go Away

The physical therapist who was treating me for chronic neck and back pain kept saying, "Make friends with the pain."
Yeah, right. Pain was my evil enemy and I hated it.
Then I happened to read a book by Philip Yancey and Paul Brand called, "Pain, the Gift Nobody wants." It told the story of Dr. Brand who had been working with leprosy patients in India and discovered leprosy wasn't a disease that eats away people's flesh as everyone had believed. Instead the disease made it impossible for them to feel pain so unnoticed injuries would become infected and the germs ate away their flesh. 
The doctor returned to the US and got a government grant to work in a leprosy sanitarium to make an alarm system so patients would know when they had injured themselves and could stop and care for their wounds. That way they should be able to work and support themselves. But no matter how much he taught them, if an alarm went off while the patient was busy he or she would simply turn it off and ignore it. 
The book did a masterful job of carrying me with Brand through his gradual discovery process until I realized with him that pain isn't evil but is, in fact, a necessary gift so we can protect our physical bodies.
With that new attitude I stopped fighting my own pain, relaxed and actually felt less of it. The physical therapist was right! 
I strongly recommend that book to anyone who must live with pain. It was re-issued in 1997 with a new title, "The Gift of Pain." That one is probably also out of print by now, but it may be possible to find one of the versions online or in a library. 

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