Abstract: Pain-repair is often confused with pain-injury. However, the attitudes to follow are very different. In search of the meaning of our feelings, let us not forget that their interpretation is conscious but their creation is bodily. To regain their property is to say “This body is mine”. Indeed, this property is lost today in information networks where the drowned brain abandons it to foreign interpretations. It then traps itself in a medical labyrinth from which it could get out by a very simple way: reconnect with the detail of its bodily sensations. A sedentary lifestyle promotes disconnection and reduces the meaning of sensory signals. Pain is useful to physical assets, necessary brake after injury, strengthening if limits are exceeded. This discrimination does not exist among the sedentary. Faced with stationary pain in the absence of activity, she thinks she is the victim of a hidden lesion.
Part 1: Pain interpreted
Roots of identity
Our sensations become, over time, interpretations. Primitively they direct our behaviors. As children, we act “without thinking”. Then the learning leads to analyze the sensations and modulate the reactions they provoke. A shared consciousness thus becomes part of our habits. This part of the mind is less personal than our primitive sensations. When we “seek our identity”, it is more difficult to find it in social mimicry than in our bodily impressions. The roots of the Self are indeed our physical signals before any interpretation from others.
It is then essential to always keep the property of our sensations. This body is mine. The brain is only one of the organs, designed to coordinate and improve the lot of the body. My mind is a retro-control of the sensations it produces. Without an organism in good condition, my mental universe has no hope of surviving, except in the state of traces frozen by my physical death.
The body, from essential to optional
Elementary? Yet the priorities are now reversed. The body has become a vehicle for an infatuated brain in its virtual universe. Physical dysfunctions trigger recriminations about this archaic and fragile biological medium. Far from considering us the owners of our genes, these are seen as the result of a lottery where the big winners are the exception and the small losers the rule.
The mind judges without leniency its own physical constitution. Far from considering itself at its service, it has lowered the body to the rank of stupid servant, which never does perfectly what is expected of it. Or it is a forced accommodation, we would have preferred to rent another, it is wrongly screwed, quickly smells bad, suffers incessant breakdowns, is sometimes so uncomfortable that you have to continually swallow psychotropic drugs to erase the experience of being on board.
Where does the sensation form?
Is a sensation real, physical, or virtual, interpreted? Initially it is only a bunch of electro-chemical excitations. It is the place where this excitement will arrive, in the depth of the neural networks, that defines its meaning. From ‘bite on the skin’ it becomes ‘insect in the process of eating me and perhaps transmitting a disease to me’.
No universal meaning to sensation, therefore. It is personal and specific to the neural stage being analyzed. Enriched in conscious space by a host of other contextual signals and filtered by cultural, scientific, philosophical or religious concepts. A ‘pain’ has become ‘suffering’.
From biological standard to conscious diversity
On the sensory sensor stage, pain is rather standardized from one individual to another. Genetics produce some variations in sensitivity, but the sensors send comparable excitation trains. On the conscious floor, after the signals had passed through many personal filters, standardization disappeared. The suffering is mine and no one else’s. It’s interesting if I want to hide it, but a big drawback if I want to share it with others. They will interpret my suffering with their own criteria and not necessarily agree with my personal meaning. Trouble begins.
Who is right? Am I the only one who can properly express my suffering? Certainly, since I am the only guest of the experience. Its description “in the first person” cannot be denigrated to me. For someone else to tell me “You don’t really suffer” is a denial of my mental independence. Whoever holds such a discourse seeks to impose herself on me, with her idea that she would not experience suffering in my place. Above all, she finds it difficult to admit that there is anything other than her own mind. A solipsist that I can ignore. But it is more difficult to dismiss the one who tells me “You do not suffer for the reasons you believe”.
My experience is authentic, but is my interpretation good? What experiences is the final stage of the analysis, not the sensors. Is communication between the two properly? Are my words about suffering the right ones? Okay, these questions take us away from the simple “I have a pain” observation that everyone is trying to get rid of. But I-have-a-pain is not always the right observation. Often it’s I-feel-wrong. I-have-a-pain is to be the owner of my pain. But precisely, am I well informed about the state of my body? There are additional examinations to confirm this. Are my sensations consistent with what they indicate?
Part 2: In the Medical Labyrinth
The kitchen of the body image
The conscious interpretation of pain is topped today by a motley mixture of foreign information. Information gleaned from the net, opinions of relatives, health magazines, experts are everywhere !… and the mixture does not make an expertise. Pieces of the puzzle juxtaposed rather than integrated. The diagnostic picture may be close or totally wrong. Above all, it lacks independence with ‘what is experiencing’. To examine oneself is necessarily to distance from presenting oneself.
A doctor today is commonly dealing with patients who are self-persuaded with perfectly fanciful diagnoses. It is all the more difficult to divert them from it because they are designed to fit perfectly into their mental universe. Avoid conflicts. Would the mistake be to their advantage? Not necessarily. Many people have a very unfavorable image of themselves and self-diagnosis is less conflictual by confirming it.
Doctors are thus frequently confronted with outbidding. Suspicion of a serious disease that does not exist. Drift is particularly common in case of troublesome pain, the majority of which have benign causes. The outbidding will lead to a plethora of examinations not always innocuous, add intermediate treatments that are not very useful, slow down the real diagnosis and its management. The doctor is on the razor’s edge to channel the requests: there is no such thing as zero risk of serious illness. We are all mortal.
The animal is not wrong
Is it essential to walk through this endless medical labyrinth full of pitfalls? The most dramatic thing is that, almost always, the person would be able to correctly indicate the severity of her disorders if she listened correctly to her physical signals. A parallel is eloquent: the animal, devoid of sophisticated conscious representations of its physical state, knows at all times its vital prognosis. Without the intermediary of any caregiver. It is connected more directly to its bodily signals, informed of its chances of survival, instinctively incited to life-saving behaviors. With its ridiculously limited array of means compared to medical science, the animal is more effective in self-diagnosis than the majority of modern humans. It is even able to spot plants with beneficial effects without ever having set foot in a pharmacy.
The human, on the other hand, has placed a shield between her first-hand sensations and her conscious interpretation. The conscious is invaded by health marketing, esotericism of well-being, excessive psychologization of simple physical signals. A banal intervertebral disturbance, a common mechanical dysfunction in our sedentary lives, can lead to months of medical wandering, unjustified worries and unnecessary therapeutic aggressions. Not to mention the substantial budget taken from social solidarity by these individual accidents. A serious story will be detected for 99 lifestyle problems. The cost of identifying the serious case is astronomical! Because the hundred people have replaced their bodily impressions with foreign media interpretations.
Part 3: Am I injured or healing?
Free endings that bind us together
One of the most common examples, which makes the title of the article, is pain-repair confused with pain-injury. Pain is a signal normally emitted above a certain threshold of aggression of tissues, by free nerve endings (numerous in the skin, the outer layer of bone, joint envelopes; rare in the viscera; absent in the brain). These endings are excited brutally by strong pressures, electric and thermal shocks, or more chronically by hypoxia or irritating chemicals.
Pain is an effective alert in trauma and gradates the severity of aggression. Two types of fibers communicate the alarm to the brain: 1) The rapid A-delta (20m/s) make the character acute and intense, quite brief. 2) Slower C fiber (2m/s) produce a more dull but prolonged pain.
Does the interruption of the aggression put an end to the pain?
Not instantly. The remanence of the C fiber signal maintains a healthy awakening to other aggressions. The trauma may have damaged the tissues, which repair themselves under the effect of the inflammatory process. Inflammation has a pejorative connotation because of the associated pain but is the phenomenon that repairs us and not an anomaly to be removed as soon as possible. Many common pathologies are related to an insufficient inflammatory reaction that does not result in restoring the integrity of tissues.
Indeed, inflammation tends to reduce spontaneously. Pro-inflammatory factors maintain it at first, activated by cellular debris, then other factors inhibit it once the repair is well advanced. The inflammatory environment is rich in chemicals that irritate nerve endings. Inflammatory pain is therefore inevitable, normal, tends to decrease over the hours and days. It protects the injured place, limits its solicitation in movements, without prohibiting it like the initial acute pain.
A brake that has become useless
At least this is how evolution defined its role in the ancestral human, a hunter-gatherer who had to seek her pittance without fail, and saw her survival threatened as soon as she remained immobilized. At that time pain was a useful and necessary brake. Our ancestors were very restless, their feet constantly awake. Today, we can stay in bed for months without putting our lives at risk. Or spend whole days sitting in front of a screen with food delivered at regular times. But our pain sensors have not changed. They brake when there is nothing left to brake.
In active humans, the dull alarm that is pain-repair is drowned in the multitude of signals coming from their musculoskeletal system in full exuberance. This is why our pain is reduced in “warming up” and sustained physical activities. Pain loses its celebrity status in neural networks. Consciousness no longer pays attention to it. The active person is properly informed that pain-repair does not require to cease activities, only to pay attention to the injured place. The activity stimulates anabolism, that is, the maintenance and repair services of the body. Circulation and metabolism accelerate. Skeleton and muscles are strengthened. Logically, we are designed to spare resources during rest periods, to solicit them in physical exertion.
Logic lost with the contemporary way of life. The inactive human in her comfortable interior neighbors with a fridge full of plethoric resources. If she swallows them unnecessarily, because she has become accustomed to eating at a fixed time, her body does not have the use and stores them in the fatty tissue, becoming herself a fridge with legs, or rather on wheels because she hardly leaves her seat.
When pain-repair is no longer erased by forced activity, it remains in its status as pain-injury, permanent, dissuasive, worrying: “If it persists, I must have something serious, a neglected complication”. The imagination seizes it, mixes it with the mediatized multitude of daily dramas, unfolds frightening scenarios, summons the precautionary principle. “I have an invisible wound and don’t have to try anything anymore.”
It is by radically isolating itself from bodily signals that consciousness comes to aberrant conclusions. Like the doctor, when she does not take into account the data of her examinations. Consciousness does not go out of style and neglects all the signals that contradict it. Pure conspiracy of the control tower against its own mechanisms. If it drops out of its fixed idea and starts listening to its body again, it becomes more animal and perfectly informed of the fair value of the damage.
An experienced doctor knows how to detect signs of discordance. Body language is very different from the discourse of consciousness when the two communicate poorly. The vocabulary chosen says a lot. The painful uses extreme, emphatic words, in opposition to a more nonchalant posture, as if her consciousness wanted to convince the rest of her being that the situation is serious, and not only her interlocutor.
When the dialogue is really broken, the gestures are very disturbed but cautious rather than painful, as if each movement could trigger a catastrophe, the possible as well as the impossible. The consciousness presses blindly, terrorized, on controllers that can send it painful discharges at any moment.
What can I do?
In short, reconnect with your free endings, rather than terminals linked by commercial, esoteric, or pseudo-philanthropic interests. Communicate better with your body? It is to stimulate the signals, to vary its language, to give it back its versatility. Excite your sensors, heat, cool, pinch, roll, stretch, get massaged. Map your body and you’ll know what world you live in.