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Does Pain Serve a Purpose?

Published Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pain is something that every human being can come to one understanding that we all hate and would do anything to avoid it at all cost but yet, it is inevitable just as death itself. We have all experienced some form of pain and also have seen others in this suffering state. Some of us who believe in God have also questioned the reason for such necessity in our daily life. What if we could live a life without pain? Wouldn’t this make life more enjoyable and all of us happy? Thus, this leads us to ask the question: Does Pain Serve a Purpose? This article hopefully, will answer this question so that one can understand why we have to endure this condition as part of our daily life.

Each individual responds to pain differently. Some of us when we are engulfed in pain we get different reactions towards it based on how severe it is and the type of individuals we are. Based on this, here are some examples of different reactions that may manifest itself: anger, resentment, self pity, hate, bitterness, annoyance, sadness, shock, anxiety, suicide, frustration, irritability, hopelessness, fretfulness, uneasiness, frustration, distress, groaning, weeping, weariness, screaming, cursing and revenge (when inflicted by others). Treatment of pain is also the same. A treatment that may work for one person of similar pain may not necessarily work for another person.

let us take a quick look at what is pain to understand it a little better. Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a consequence of injury, disease, or emotional disorder. From this definition we can see that pain itself can come in many forms which, as a result, leads to different types of pain. Thus, there are two basic types of pain, acute and chronic ( for others click here) . Acute pain is one that comes on quickly but lasts a relatively short period of time. It also has the potential of becoming severe. If not properly taken care of and treated, it can become chronic pain. It can usually be diagnosed and treated. Chronic pain on the other hand, is one that persists or progresses over a long period of time. This can range from mild to severe. This pain is usually magnified by environmental and psychological factors. It is more resistant to most medical treatment and therefore patients need the care of an expert. It can affect one physically, emotionally, socially, occupationally and psychologically.

In order to answer the question above, it is important to have some basic understanding of the way Nervous System works before pain and its purpose is explained. The nervous system is divided into the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The Central Nervous System is made up of the brain and spinal cord. It works along together with the peripheral nervous system which is composed of all nerves that are attached to the spinal cord which, then branches out forming a network throughout the entire body. The PNS nerve stems from and leads into the CNS. The PNS consists of:
  • sensory neurons running from stimulus receptors that inform the CNS of the stimuli. For example, sending signals back from the legs to the brain.
  • motor neurons running from the CNS to the muscles and glands (effectors) that take necessary action. For example, carries signals from the brain to the hand.

When one is hurt, it is usually accompanied by a feeling that is called pain. When we touch a hot object for example with our hand, we feel a sharp burning sensation and we pull away our hand from that hot object. What causes this to happen? There are nerves cells all around our body that are sensitive to following stimuli: temperature (hot and cold), pressure (e.g. hitting, pressing, squeezing, caressing etc.) and chemical changes. When someone hand touches a hot object a message is transmitted from our hand to the CNS (through the spinal cord and then the brain) by special PNS nerve cells called nociceptors (sensory nerve endings receptor). The message signal (electrical signals) that leaves our hand (where the stimuli is) is carried by the sensory neurons (conducting nerve cells) to the CNS. The sensory neurons transmits this signal to nerve cells within the spinal cord which, then conveys this message to a specific region in the brain called the thalamus. When the brain receives this information it then processes it (interprets the message) and then distributes it to different parts of the brain that have their specific functions. In this case a part of the brain would determine its location - the hand - while, a different part of the brain would be responsible to determine what sensation is being felt (heat in this case).other parts of the brain responsible for memory, motivation, attention, and emotion would also chip in. This would triggers our memory of pain and anxiety about the pain to come shortly. The brain would detect where the damage is occurring to the body , locate it and coordinate an appropriate response by telling the body how to respond. This it does by sending a signal to the part of the brain that controls movement. This signal (a response) is then sent to the spinal cord which then travels through conducting cells called motor neurons to the location where the effectors (muscles) are located telling it to contract by pulling away from the hot object. This movement of communication to and from the brain through a specific pathway is called a reflex arc. All of these different process that takes place in the brain as well as, the journey the message and the response take to travel to and fro happen very quickly in a fraction of a second. This process also takes place for other such situations whether it as to do with our skin or organs inside our body.

This scenario demonstrates how important pain is and its purpose in life. Here we see how pain serves as an alarm system where it alerts us to potentially or actualy damage to the human body. This cause us to jump into action, telling us something is wrong and we need to do some about it right away - not later. Humans have a tendency to procrastinate, putting off things at a later time. So apart from warning us that something is wrong it also gives you the driving force to get it done before serious harm is done. we are able to not only feel pain, but also know what sort of pain it is. If it was possible to refuse it’s warning then this would cause one’s quality of life to change. This can lead to serious physical and physiologically problems, impair our thoughts and our daily life and worst death. Thus, protecting you the individual is of uttermost importance - and for survival. Many of us no doubt, would prefer to go through life without feeling a pain. However, if you could go through life not feeling pain anything could go wrong inside our body. So, whether it is a headache, tummy ache, back ache, pain caused from a disease, injury, childbirth etc. etc. they all keep our body in check. Hence, pain does serve a purpose that can help us: recover from a temporary injury before it becomes permanent or life threatening, alert us that something is wrong with our body internally or externally and that it needs immediate attention, prevents additional health complications and finally but not least, taking all that is said, it improves an individual's quality of life by helping us to keep healthy by checking to see that everything is working properly and in harmony. It is a self protective mechanism.


It is important to note that as much as pain serves it’s purpose it does have a disadvantage where it continually warns a person about a serious threat to his/her health or life. This is usually a chronic pain that can be a disease or disorder that cannot be treated or cured beyond the individual or by any doctor capability. One such disease is cancer, a very persistent and degenerative condition. The pain alone can be just as dreadful and seriously harmful to the person’s quality of life - totally changing a person out look on life. This individual will be affected: physically (persistent agony), occupationally ( difficulty to perform task), spiritually (bring one closer or further away from their God - if they believe in one), psychologically (low self esteem, self-pity and depression), emotionally (disheartened and hopelessness) and socially ( go into isolation). Here pain don't really serve any more purpose since its purpose as protective alert system is over while the pain continues. Hence, since there is nothing to avoid or prevent from getting worst, pain has lost its value as a warning system. Nevertheless, it lets you continually know that all is still not well.

Quotes on pain

Pain is a necessity for a quality healthy life yet no man would wish this on himself or would it ever excite envy if own by another. Pain a necessary evil, the only evil that I would not wish away even if I could.
R. Edmondson

Even though pain is my friend, it is also my enemy.
R. Edmondson

Did you know? Extras

  • There is a disorder that some individual suffers from that causes them to unable to feel pain. This condition affects nerve endings and is called congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA). Because of the nature of this disease the individual has no ability to feel pain. This makes that individual vulnerable to all form of injury including minor injury that can manifest itseft as a threat to ones health and life such burns, cuts, fractures and tumors.
  • A tools that can help a doctor to diagnose or measure a patient’s pain intensity is known as a Pain scales. This helps to overcome the difficulty one might have of putting the feeling of pain into words. Hence, this describe the pain the best way to give the doctor a better understanding of the state you are in.The most widely used scales are:


Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale — use facial expressions that help the patient’s doctor to see how the pain makes one feel.
Designed for children aged 3 years and older as well as, cognitively impaired elderly patients.
Face 0 is very happy because he or she doesn't hurt at all.

Face 0 is very happy because he or she doesn't hurt at all.
Face 1 hurts just a little bit.
Face 2 hurts a little more.
Face 3 hurts even more.
Face 4 hurts a whole lot.
Face 5 hurts as much as you can imagine, although you don't have to be crying to feel this bad.


Use to describe the intensity or severity of one’s degree of discomfort.

Allows the individual to describe the intensity of discomfort in numbers ranging from 0 to 10.

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At 11:26 AM, Blogger Orikinla Osinachi. said...
At 12:55 AM, Anonymous dawn said...
At 11:58 AM, Blogger FuzzBuck Fuzz said...
At 12:42 PM, Blogger FuzzBuck Fuzz said...
At 8:07 PM, Blogger Furkids In Hong Kong said...
At 1:12 AM, Blogger Wendy, founder, Gen Plus said...
At 4:18 AM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
At 8:44 AM, Blogger puremood said...
At 12:50 PM, Blogger R. Edmondson said...
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At 10:49 PM, Blogger Damian Bathory said...
At 1:18 AM, Blogger rocky case said...

Thank you for the academic thesis on "Pain".

I only know of two kinds of pain.
Natural Pain and Spiritual Pain.
Like the "Torn in Flesh" that Saint Paul mentioned in the Holy Bible. God told him that His grace was sufficient for him.

Do you have a book on "Did You Know?"

I suffer from Severe Chronic Migraines. I found your post interesting...for a couple reasons. I am very active in my church, and I do believe that certain things, like pain(s), can happen for a reason. What I do not understand is what I am supposed to 'learn' or change in my behaviour to get the migraines to stop. The migraines do not have a reason that can be medically identified. I have had, literally, all the tests and tried many types of meds...I guess I will have to keep reading and praying

it was a bit of a pain forcing you to wait for these. Big sorry, but I'm sure you'll agree it's been worth it:






Hope you like them & while here i'd like to compliment you on yours - nice work ;)

a better version of dyk2:

revised dyk2

As with dawn, I too suffer from Chronic Migraines, but at a far less basis as I had a couple years ago for reasons unknown to me or my doctor.

To say that it's a PITA would be a severe understatement.

Thanks again for a great post.

Very interesting site. Love to hear a Did you Know on the 50-Plus demographic (my area of interest.)


Orikinla Osinachi:

Thank you.

Right you are about that. Paul’s “thorn” in the flesh originated from his past evil ways and thus, it became necessary to curb him because the sin of pride lurked dangerously at his door step. 2 Corinthians 12:7

No, there are no “Did You Know?” book. I write all my topics that I think will be of interest to a majority of people as I go along. Sometime in the future however, it is possible that I might just do that.


I am truly sorry to hear about your condition. I will not pretend that I have all the answers but, will quickly share some thoughts that come to mind. A medical explanation might elude us in identifying the problem and cause of migraine but nonetheless, here are some factors that I personally think may trigger or cause migraine. These will also help with some self evaluation of your daily life. I am NOT saying you have any of the following factors, just listing some factors that MAY trigger migraine. Please note, I am not an expert or a medical doctor, just sharing my personal thoughts on the matter at hand.

The type of Food we eat
Over working oneself
Unhappy with daily job
Unhappy with life generally
Other illness
and also, Hair products (including the unintentional inhaling of aerosol)

Again, I am not a medical doctor but you can try these personal recommendations:

Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Drink plenty of water and natural fruit juices
Avoid food high in cholesterol
Monitor salt intake
Eat less red meat
Eat less food containing a lot of preservatives and coloring
Drink less beverages that contain caffeine
Do not smoke - I assume that you do not smoke.
Get plenty of rest.
Take some time to relax doing things that you enjoy.
Try to do some sort of physical exercises at least twice a week.
Take your Medications on time if any is given.
Take appropriate pain reliever tablets.
Laugh and give jokes
Have a positive attitude towards life.
Always keep your mind in a positive state with pleasant thoughts
Take one day at a time
Also, lying down at a quite comfortable place and placing a wet rag over the forehead ( and not focusing on the pain) should help. Clear your thoughts too.
And finally but not least, continue to have communion with God - read your bible and pray each day.

I hope you find what I said useful.

FuzzBuck Fuzz:

Wow!! Wow!! Wow!!! They look so awesome!! You are really talented. It was more than worth the waiting and to top it off, you did for free. How can I ever repay you. Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this for me. I appreciate this very much.

I am going to add it to my other buttons shortly after this!

Thanks again : )

Furkids In Hong Kong:

I am glad to know you are much better now concerning this type of pain. This is not a pretty pain to endure, a matter of fact, no pain whatsoever.

Thanks for the comment.

Gen plus:

Thank you very much. Keep your fingers cross you will never know.

Thanks again.

Hmm, a good post for me to read this morning since last night I had a headache for hours that was bigger that the state of Texas!

Pure Mood:

That was some serious pain there! Sorry to hear about that. Hope all is well now.

Thanks for stopping by. Take care now and enjoy the rest of the day.

your blog is just so intense ty!

Nice article on pain.I know a kid you may be interested. His brother goes to school with my little brother. He has CIPA and his website is www.helproberto.com

I am a Physical Therapist from New York, and I read through the comments from the migraine sufferers. I get consistently great results using an very new treatment approach. There is a small group of PT's in the US that practice these very gentle, but most powerful techniques. Don't look any further for a solution. I have been practicing for 13 years and I will not go back to treating a migraine in the traditional way. The results I achieve are miraculous on a daily basis. Check out my website.

Nice information, many thanks to the author. It is incomprehensible to me now, but in general, the usefulness and significance is overwhelming. Thanks again and good luck! Web Design Company

I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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I have tried exercise, chiropractors, acupuncture, a million NSAIDs, and muscle relaxants. Nothing helps except for massage and very hot baths, sometimes with Tiger Balm (tigerbalm.50webs.com/English/index.htm) applied to the lumbar region and afterwards bed rest. It helps to ease up my muscles and for getting through the pain/minor injuries that sometimes happen.

Of course pain has a purpose. At the very least, it tells you something is wrong with your body. For example, muscle pain usually means that I should go see my chiropractor as soon as I can.

Stephen Stapinski

Really your blog is very interesting.... it contains great and unique information. I enjoyed to visiting your blog. It's just amazing.... Thanks very much for the share.

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