Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pain is a Good Teacher

I was brought up in a family with Anglo values; we children were encouraged to be brave and ignore minor aches and pains. I now believe that, except for endurance athletes and soldiers on the battlefield, this is not good advice. Pain is your nervous system telling you that something may be wrong.

People who are serious about fitness become connoisseurs of pain. There is the muscle soreness that lets you know that you’re actually challenging the muscle and making it stronger; there are the nasty little twinges when you’re pulled a tendon a little too much; the more ominous, raw sensation of a sprain; and so on. Noticing these and applying a remedy if it is needed are part of treating your body with respect. Sore muscles can be stretched or massaged with a foam roller. Pulled tendons and sprains can be treated with heat and ice.

When a little pain is ignored it can turn into a serious problem. I have thin skin, literally; the corneas of my eyes are thin too. In winter I will often get a little cut or nick on my hand. If I put a band-aid and antiseptic on it right away, it heals quickly. If I don’t, it will turn into a persistent sore painful enough to keep me awake at night. When I was about thirty I used to get a creepy little pain in my lower back, no big deal; I never went to a doctor about it. I now believe that this was when my reproductive system was beginning to self-destruct.

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