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Pain, Its Causes and Management

Jacqueline Todorov

What is pain?

Pain is a signal from your nervous system designed to alert you of a problem in a particular area. But your body sometimes gets its signals mixed sending a pain message from the appendix to the back of the shoulder. This is called 'transference' and is a switchboard problem!

There are two different types of pain. Acute and chronic. Medical studies and my own experience, including marriage, have taught me that men and women respond to pain differently. Women are more sensitive to pain. This does not relate to pain thresholds but to the actual feeling of pain.

Men are more likely to become depressed when they have chronic pain. Men are less willing, for various reasons, to talk about their pain to others, including their wives or their doctors. Men suffer in silence and therefore internalize their pain leading to an increase in other symptoms such as depression and anxiety. The depression and anxiety, in turn, increase the pain experienced. It can be a long battle to regain a pain-free status. There are many books out there promoting many different ways to deal with pain. The main theme in most approaches is exercise.

Exercise is one of the best treatments for pain because it releases the body's own pain-killers. Being bed-ridden for any amount of time has got to be the world's most boring situation. It won't relieve you of pain either. Getting out of bed, even if some pain is experienced, will go a long way towards regaining control of your life. You can control the pain. Don't let pain control you.

Back to my original idea.

And my very own opinion on the matter of pain.

I am of French Canadian and Irish stock. No argument there, I grew up in a family that encouraged the expression of emotions, including pain. I married a man from a slavic country. Tough country, tough men. Men don't cry, men don't show pain. Men can be emotional wrecks but still able to defend their families and lands from invasion by "Big, Mean Countries" This is a good thing in a time of war. Not so great in peacetime.

As an example, my husband and I, over the past weekend went to a funeral of a man that my husband called his grandfather. He wasn't, but he had been his mentor and guiding light throughout the troubled teen years. One of the tasks that we had to do was the "going through the stuff". A hard thing to do, but made more difficult by my husband's denial of the emotional pain that he must have been going through. Rather than talk about his feelings, he worked long into the night. His one concession to needing emotional support was keeping me awake!

It dawned on me at about 2 am that he did not want to stop. Stopping would mean thinking about his feelings and opening up a wound that he thought was better left closed. We talked. About his grandfather, the funny and the sad moments, about my husband's feelings about the sudden passing of the one man that had loved him unconditionally.

My husband finally fell asleep.

The burial the next day was a very simple service for a man who had been a kind, generous, and above all a gentle soul. May he rest in peace.

And for the first time since I met him 7 years ago, I saw my husband cry.

Today, 3 days after the burial, my husband is feeling happier than I have seen him in years. More hope for the future, funnier, and relaxed. Talking about his feelings and perceptions of people and events has been a catharsis for him. He had locked all of his pain up. Suddenly a great weight is lifted and he is free to live his life again.

I am not saying that every stressful event should be analyzed in great detail. What I wish to convey is that pain needs an outlet. Whether physical or emotional, if left inside, pain will fester, and become the ruler of your life. Men need to learn that it is OK to show emotion from time to time, and that it is a healthy response to hurt, stress, strain, and emotional upset.

As a nurse, I have been taught to believe a patient when they claim to have pain. In most situations, this has proven to be true. As a human being, I see no reason to change this outlook. If someone says they have pain, have them seen by a professional. They will be able to suggest many different options. Medication, exercise and diet can go a long way to help a person in pain. There is hope.

God Bless Jacquie

Here are some useful links

Queensland Self help Connecting to Grief: Men's Paths to Healing
by Tom Golden, LCSW
Mercury Scientists say women more sensitive to pain
by Robert S. Boyd

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