For the Love of Pain: a doctor tells us why it can be good for you

Nothing is more complex and amazing than the human body.  The human body is made up of nearly 100 trillion cells, with biological systems built in to carry out functions necessary for everyday living.  There are systems that allows us to take in nutrients and vital necessities to life; every four months, your body has an entire new river of red blood cells rich with nutrients, oxygen and hormones nourishing the body.


Nature has designed a sophisticated defence system designed to protect your body and provide immunity to fight against infections from microorganisms and viruses, while movement and other bodily functions is aided by 650 muscles, resting on the foundation of 206 bones connected by ligaments, tendons and cartilage.



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All of these functions of the body are coordinated and controlled by the nervous system – consisting of the brain, spinal cord and nerves.  It’s like a communication highway that makes it possible for cells to communicate with one another. All in all – an intelligent design.


Pain, swelling, soreness and mild fever are all defensive mechanisms your body uses against an infection (invasion from a foreign body) or (inflammation due to) damage to an area of the body.  Our bodies are built to be able to adapt to stress. However, people typically do not enjoy pain.


Dr. Holly Strausbaugh, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the NIH Pain Center at University of California San Francisco, says that people always think of pain “in a very negative way”.  Her published research in Nature Medicine, demonstrated that pain plays an important role in preventing an over-reaction from the body, and thus, understanding the purpose of pain and its role in preventing the development of chronic problems such as arthritis, can affect the way people react to pain.


There is a huge misconception that people who do not exhibit signs of pain, illness or weakness are most definitely “healthy”. In fact, two of the top three leading killers in Hong Kong are cancer and heart disease. Typically, these diseases start long before any pain or symptoms arise.  By the time any symptoms show, the patients’ bodies are no longer functioning the way it’s supposed to.



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I am an advocate for people being proactive and taking care of themselves through eating and living well. However, don’t get me wrong – I am not in any way against the use of drugs. Drugs are great and often life-saving, especially for emergency care.  When we need to attend a business meeting, perform on a stage or conduct an interview; the last thing we need is a nagging headache to distract us. Taking a pain killer can temporarily ease the pain to see us through an activity, even though it may not be a cure. Our fast paced culture sometimes focuses on the surface problem of the pain and not the underlying until it is too late.


As a chiropractor who focuses on NeuroStructural correction, I focus not just on my patient’s structural issues, but also the root cause for their pain or disabilities. It is important because our body doesn’t always have to be in pain for us to be on the path towards sickness. It comes down to the age-old concept: prevention is better than treatment.


I have a lot of patients who have come in to see me with pain that came on with no apparent injury, often due to accumulated strain and stresses.  One of the things I notice is that they have a tendency to dismiss the early warning signs of reduced function, discomfort and pain given by their body until it is to a point where they have to come in to “fix” themselves.



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As Dr. Helene Wilson, a research advisor of the British Heart Foundation also pointed out, pain is a very complicated process, and it is not just body’s way of warning you something is wrong.  When we feel pain it can also be a sign the body is doing what it can to fix the problem”.


Pain may come and go, as your body has an ability to adapt. However, if you ignore those signals long enough, they can potentially develop into something more serious.  If you suffer from some form of physical discomfort, it is important for you to identify what the root cause to your pain is.  You can start by being more aware to what your body is telling you even if it’s bearable, whether its changes in movement patterns or even habits.


The next time you feel pain, stop and focus.  Have a think about what your symptoms are trying to tell you about your body.  Is pain relief enough or is it possibly from a deeper issue?  Depending on how you’re feeling, it is best to seek out a Health Professional to help identify the causes of the problem – before it’s too late.



Dr. Alex Pak is an Australian-Chinese chiropractor that graduated from Macquarie University, Sydney. He focuses on NeuroStructural correction and is currently practicing in Central, Hong Kong.


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