Being pain management doctors gives us the opportunity to get to know patients from all walks of life. One of the more interesting aspects of this particular medical specialty is observing how different people perceive and manage their pain. Some patients take a very philosophical approach that ultimately leads to a unique perspective.
Looked at another way, there are always those two or three patients whose philosophy on pain sets them apart from everyone else. They just have a unique way of looking at things. Their individual perspectives are neither better nor worse than anyone else's. They are just different enough to stand out.
As much as we pain management doctors like to believe we can make everyone feel better, that is not always the case. Medical science knows a lot about pain. But there is also a lot that remains unknown. There are times when our lack of knowledge prevents us from offering patients the relief they so desperately want.
Such is the case with Atlantic contributor Kieran Setiya, whose November 2022 piece details her own struggle with chronic pain. Setiya considers herself a philosopher by nature. So when her doctors eventually admitted there was little they could do to help her, she turned to philosophy to manage her daily life with pain.
It is interesting that Setiya describes her life, in part, as living with "the hum of pain as background noise." If you are not a long-term chronic pain patient, the concept may be foreign to you. But try to imagine something in your house that constantly makes a low-grade noise in the background. Maybe it's your refrigerator.
The hum of the refrigerator can constantly be heard if you are listening for it. Get distracted by daily life and you mostly forget about it. But after five or 10 minutes of distraction-free quiet, you suddenly notice the hum once again. Get up in the middle of the night for a glass of water and the refrigerator will sound louder than it ever has before.
Chronic pain can create a similar sensation. Chronic pain sufferers always know the pain is present, but it may be easier to ignore when one is busy doing what needs to be done to get through the day. Occasional flareups occur, but the worst of the pain is felt during the patient's downtime.
The lesson here is that perception plays a big role in how debilitating chronic pain is. This is not to say that those who find themselves debilitated are weaker than others who continue to function normally. It is simply to remind of the fact that patients perceive pain differently.
Some of us have fairly high pain thresholds. Others have low thresholds. It is all part of the unique nature of each individual human being. Regardless of any one person's perception of pain, philosophy may be able to do what medical therapies cannot.
Kieran Setiya discovered that philosophy could change her outlook on pain. She is long past trying to remember what being pain free was like. She also doesn't try to imagine a pain-free future. Instead, she takes the approach of living in the moment.
Our poor synopsis of Setiya's post doesn't do it justice. You should probably read it yourself. Whether or not you choose to, remember that our pain clinic is here to help you. Pay us a visit and we can offer you a solemn promise to do everything within our power to help you feel better.