by Herbert M. Shelton

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Pages 62-69

An excitant applied to an organ or part occasions exaltations of its functional activities and an elevation of its sensations. If the irritating effect is prolonged or intensified, there follow sensations of uneasiness, which increase to tenderness, and then to decided pain, or, if the irritation is great enough, stupor results. Irritated parts become exhausted and incapable of vigorous physiological action.

Pain is simply sensation or feeling so intensified as to be uncomfortable. It is the nervous system noting the presence of danger, giving warning of the damages being done to the part, and arousing the vital energies to vigorous resistance to pathogen. Pain does not merely warn us against intrinsically damaging things and influences, but also against damaging excesses of wholesome things and influences. Pain is excess feeling and serves a very useful protective function.

Things that give pleasure may be carried far enough that the pleasurable sensation passes into pain. Pain is an exaltation of the sense of feeling and depends on the capacity to feel and enjoy.

It is literally true that the capacity of an organism for enjoyment may be measured by its capacity to suffer. The more elevated is an animal in the scale of life -- the more highly organized its nervous system -- the greater are its capacities for pleasure and pain.

Suffering, that is, the capacity to suffer, is absolutely necessary for our protection and preservation and, to this extent, in both the moral and utilitarian sense, pain is good and not evil. Enjoyment comes from obedience to the laws of being and suffering from violating these laws. Fixed laws of life are essential. They injure only when violated, and the consequent suffering acts as a schoolmaster to compel man to behave himself. It is the warning voice of Nature telling us that something is wrong or that the thing we are doing is harmful.

Suffering is an incentive to man to adjust himself to the laws of life, to adapt himself to his natural environment, or to adapt his unnatural environment to his needs. Without hunger to drive an animal to eat, he would starve; without thirst, he would perish in the presence of water; without pain from cold, he would freeze without ever knowing the cause; without suffering from heat, he would be consumed by fire; without pain from pressure, his body would be crushed without warning. Pain from "disease" and injury is an evidence of the need for a rest and a change of life. Gratification of desire becomes painful when carried to excess, and pain in such cases is necessary to prevent complete exhaustion and death. If man were capable of pleasure only and not of pain, he would speedily exhaust the powers of life. Pain is a very effectual check to conduct which would otherwise lead to destruction. The office of pain is not to destroy us, but to save us. It is man's best friend.

All of man's powers are intended for good and serve good purposes when used in harmony with their primitive constitution. Man can govern his powers and use them rightly or wrongly. If he uses them wrongly, pain and suffering call a halt. Pain is Nature's "thou shall not."

Man's appetites and passions stand on a lower plane than his higher mental faculties. When these passions and appetites are governed by will and reason in harmony with their primitive purposes and are not permitted to become masters over the higher powers, they serve noble ends. But when they become masters, and higher powers are made slaves to them, human nature is debased. From this, it will be seen that man should control and direct his appetites and passions aright and not attempt to eradicate them, as certain Eastern religions demand. Their proper exercise brings pleasure. Their wrongful exercise brings pain, and the pain is commensurate with the pleasure their right exercise affords. Pain is life's guardian angel.

The gratification of desire becomes painful if pushed to excess. All pleasures become painful if pushed beyond the limits of safety. The intensest pleasures are the costliest and occasion the most pain if over-indulged. This is the reason that relief of pain is an evil. It checks Nature's check. It enables us to go on heatless of the price we are paying. It is one thing to silence the outcry of nature with painkillers, but quite another to correct and remove the conditions that give rise to it.

Pain is not merely a warning to one who suffers; it is part of the means employed to rally and mobilize reserve vital energies to the point of the pain to resist the encroachment of Pathogen. It may well be true that pain is essential to the increased flow of blood to the site of injuries and that it is of great importance from a remedial point of view. Pain stimulates the adrenal glands, causing more adrenaline to be thrown into the blood and increases the coagulating power of the blood. There are doubtless other beneficial blood changes resulting from its influence. Pain is an index to vitality.

Pain is dull, heavy, acute, mild, severe, lacerating, darting, or stellate, according to its degree or mode of manifestation; but in all cases it is an evidence of wrong and not itself the wrong. It is not the evil, only the protest against an evil. The exhaustion and feebleness sequent to intense pain and prolonged irritation form no evidence that pain and irritation constitute evil.

If we pinch our arm, pain is felt. The nerves recognize and warn us of the injury being inflicted. It does not require much knowledge of vital phenomena to determine whether the pain that warns us or the pinching that harms us constitutes the real mischief. If a man is cut by a sharp knife, he feels great pain. Is the pain in such a case to be regarded as "disease" and suppressed, or is it the living, vital witness to the outrage done to the body by the knife? Pour undiluted sulfuric acid upon the skin. The structures are chemically corroded, and the parts immediately under the ones thus destroyed are extremely sensitive, highly irritated, and painful. Is the pain (and irritation) the "disease," or are these the means of notifying the victim of the damage done?

In neither of these cases does the danger consist in the recognition by the nervous system of the presence of the damage and a damaging agent, which recognition we call pain, but in the outrage done to the living tissues by these agents. The real danger is the pinch or cut or corrosion.

While the capacity to suffer pain, to be irritated and aroused into a vigorous "fever," must ever exist in the healthy body and are all part of the means of preserving life, let no one suppose that, because pain and irritation are not themselves evil, they should be present in a state of health. Nor, should it be supposed that, when pain is smothered by some form of anodyne, the trouble of which it is a symptom has been remedied.

However undesirable pain may be in itself, its suppression is not desirable. Its existence is an evidence of injury and the increase of sensibility may be, and I believe is, a direct means of "exciting" an increase of vital action in the part. If the power to suffer is taken from the damaged nerves, nothing whatever is done toward removing the antecedents of the pain and the repair of the damages; but Nature's outcry and rally are forestalled.

Pain arises from many diverse causes, such as traumatic injury -- a cut or bruise -- acute irritation, inflammation, chilblains, crude substances passing through the bowels, nervous excitement, an abscess (throbbing pain), etc. It will be obvious at a glance that to administer a painkilling drug in these cases does nothing to remedy any of these conditions. Colic may be "relieved" by a narcotic, but the intestinal condition remains.

A large part of the practice of medicine among all schools has always been directed to suppressing pain -- not by removing its cause, but by overcoming the power of the nerves to feel. It has been a killing practice. For the most part, the means employed to relieve pain have been poisons -- anodynes. Often, as in the case of morphine, these poisons produce worse pains than they relieve. They are more correctly classed as odynes. The true anodyne is that which affords relief from pain by remedying the condition that gives rise to the pain.

Dr. Oswald rightly likened the suppression of pain to "muffling the alarm bells during the conflagration." But it is worse than this: suppression of pain not only muffles the alarm bells, it cripples the firemen. Opium, for instance, produces constipation, decreased heart action and restoration, impairs kidney action, and depresses the whole system. Every process and function upon which the sufferer must depend for recovery is crippled. In some cases the depression of vital function is so great that death results. In proportion as the nerves lose their capacity to respond to deleterious influences and herald the extent and character of the damage, in exact proportion will the parts become liable to further decay.

The continued employment of "painkilling" drugs greatly impairs the nervous system. The unthinking never realize what a terrible price they pay for a brief respite from the pain.

Relief of pain! How? By methods that do everything else than correct cause! By methods which often produce worse pains than those they relieve or that are the cause of the very pains they relieve. Who does not know that the poppy that grows with the wheat produces worse pains than those it is given to relieve? Who does not know that it relieves the pains it produces only to make these worse? Who does not know that coffee will relieve the headache it has caused? Or that tobacco will steady the nerves it has unsteadied; and by steadying them makes them more unsteady than ever? And yet all one requires to be permanently rid of the pains of opium or coffee or the uneasiness of tobacco is to refrain from the use of these long enough for the body to repair the damages they have created.

"There is something like a charm," wrote Dr. Trall, "in the idea of sending down the sick person's throat a dose which silences his pains and quiets his distress with magical celerity. But the charm is at once dispelled when we look to ultimate consequences. The very pain which the potent and ill-advised dose of the doctor has subdued is generally [always] the warning voice of the organic instincts that something is wrong or the effort of the organism to rid itself of an enemy. When the organic instincts proclaim to the whole domain of life, through the medium of the brain, that an enemy is present, that proclamation is felt, not heard, and its language is pain. It is one thing to silence the outcry of nature for help, but it is quite another thing to relieve her by dislodging the enemy." --Hydropathic Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 11.

The best means of dealing with pain is to grit the teeth, clench the fists and "grin and bear it" until rational care and the processes of life have removed the need for pain. This plan will always mean more rapid and more satisfactory recovery. The plan of "relieving" pain not only hinders recovery and damages the body, but it encourages the patient and the doctor to ignore cause.

A patient suffers with pain. Every time he eats, the pain increases. The pain inhibits secretion and impairs digestion. The result of eating under such conditions is more cause of pain. The physician "relieves" the pain (sandbags the nerves); the patient takes a meal and is not conscious of suffering. Both he and the physician are satisfied. This method of "relief" continues until there comes a "sudden" break. The physician is surprised. So is the patient, his relatives and friends. They all thought he was doing so splendidly. The truth is, he was slowly and insidiously undermined, but, due to the fact that he had destroyed all of Nature's warning signals, neither he nor the physician knew what was going on. His fancied relief enabled him to continue those very practices that were responsible for the pain.

If this pain had not been "relieved," Nature would soon have forced him to stop eating long enough for her to repair the condition. "Relief" prevented him from learning one of nature's great health truths. "Relief" blinds both the sufferer and his doctor; it obscures the sufferer's true condition and prevents the discovery of the cause of the trouble.

"Painkillers" do not really save us from pain. The late Dr. Henry Lindlahr use to say, "Suppressed pains are deferred pains." While he had reference only to pains suppressed by drugs, "suppressed pains are deferred pains," no matter how they are suppressed. All methods of "muffling the alarm bells" instead of removing the occasion for the pain do so by depressing the nervous system, and through this they depress the functions of life by which recovery is effected.

While I was still in the curing business, a lady was once under my care who suffered, at times, with considerable pain and congestion in the lumbar region. By means of radiant heat and massage, I easily managed, in a very few minutes, to relieve all pain and to break up the congestion and restore normal movement. But, and here is the crux of the whole matter, in two or three hours, her back was as bad as ever. I temporarily broke up the local trouble, but, as I did not correct its cause, it returned.

A man suffered with a severe frontal headache. It lasted four days. He resorted to zone therapy for relief. As long as pressure was applied, the ache was practically abolished. The instant the pressure was removed the pains returned with renewed force.

Neuropathy was next tried. Results were the same. Spondylotherapy was employed. Same results. Then hot baths were used. Results identical. All these methods gave temporary relief, but, when the pains returned, they came with renewed intensity; no true relief was secured.

A girl lay suffering with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and inflammation of the optic nerve. Pains were intense. Efforts to relieve her were made. Hydrotherapy and neuropathy were both employed. Each brought temporary relief. But when the pains returned, they were much worse than before the "relief" was secured. The period of intensity of pain was, each time, equal to the period of "relief." The girl was not saved any actual suffering.

That pains are increased after morphine wears off is known by everyone. But this fact is usually thought to apply to drugs only. There is ample evidence that it applies to drugless methods as well.

Suppression, per se, is the same by whatever means secured. Nature rejects all plans of vicarious salvation. Every effort to prevent an action from having its whole reaction meets with defeat.

Relief, not merely of pain, but of all symptoms, harms more than the original cause because it makes the sufferer willing to tolerate the cause. It breeds slavishness to cause, which is moral suicide. It is patchwork treatment, and patchwork treatment is but hewing at a hydra. Every time one symptom is palliated, seven others take its place. Penalties cannot be sidestepped by any means. Acts have their consequences. These cannot be avoided.

It may be urged that, by the constant application of measures for "relief," pain can be suppressed until Nature has time to effect a cure, after which no pains return when measures for relief are abandoned.

Is this true? Can it be true? In a narrow sense it is true, but in a larger sense it is as false as we would expect it, on general philosophic principles, to be. What actually happens under such conditions is the prolongation of the period of the disease, if indeed the patient is not killed outright, and the other sufferings of the patient prolonged and intensified. Recovery is not only delayed, it is not so complete; the patient is greatly weakened, and his ultimate restoration to normal health is long drawn out. He's usually left with some sequelae or chronic after-effect, from which he recovers, if ever, only after a long time has elapsed.

All the various means employed to secure immediate, though evanescent, relief of pain, react disagreeably on the nervous system and cannot be continued as a part of the treatment without seriously increasing the obstacles to recovery and compromising the patient's capacity for restoration.

Dr. Taylor says, "The power of such remedies (painkillers) is limited to its postponement.... The nature of this effect appears to be in the main inhibitory; it continues during the presence and contact of the medicament with the source of pain. Being removed through the ordinary physiological processes, the pain returns... The reappearance of pain is often in less bearable form, ... is denoted by the increase of disagreeable sensation; the cause of the pain has not been diminished; the action by which it is evolved has only been temporarily suspended." He adds that the "habitual requisition" of "sedatives in medical practice" causes "these (nervous) energies to assume more and more intense forms of pain."

Painkillers of all kinds lower resistance to pain and make cowards of their victims. In all cases it is also necessary to increase the size and frequency of the dose to secure the desired "relief." A time comes when nothing short of a lethal dose of a drug affords "relief," or when no amount of hot application, for instance, will "relieve" the pain. Both drug and drugless methods lose their inhibiting effects.

Outraged Nature demands the full payment of every debt against her. The law of compensation is one of strict justice. It rewards and punishes with the same exactitude. To return to full health after health has been impaired by wrong living, the full price must be paid.

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