Pain is like the wind.
It can only be viewed by its interface with the environment.
We see the trees move, the leaves rustle, the flower petals quiver. We see the thick dust in the air, the yard furniture toppling in a pile by the fence, the branches dropping to the street.
Our skin turns alive with an unseen pressure. We are urged to move to the left by an unseen force from the right. It blew my hat off.
“I cannot take a picture of the wind. I can show you a picture of a windy day… but not the wind.”
It comes up in evaluations and interactions often. “The right knee has the tear in it, but the left one hurts more.” or “The MRI showed nothing.” I have a canned response since it comes up so much. “Well, you make an excellent point. Thank you for bringing that up. Now, since pain is a feeling, and not a thing, it does not show up on X-ray/MRI/CT. I cannot hand you some pain (reaching both of my cupped hands forward). There has never been a picture of feeling. There have been pictures of people wincing, or holding a body part, but since pain is a feeling, it will never show up on a picture.”
I say this, generally the same way, while gauging understanding as best I can. This may be a good starting place, depending on the patient. Perhaps it’s a good analogy to challenge a “seeing is believing” mindset. The wind is no less real.
Now, the wind analogy is useful to look at the spectrum of what pain is in someone’s life. It can blow your neighbors leaves into your yard. It can cool you down on a hot day. Pain serves a biological purpose as a threat/danger signal, but can also be a destructive force.
Not all the important things in life are made visible.
*Yes there are biological structural processes to pain. Yes there is wind energy physics.
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