I’ve heard this hundreds of times over the years, and yep, I think it’s basically true. Certainly, the “something” may be far more physically complicated than the specific location experiencing the pain (e.g., experiencing low back pain because of a neurological issue) and may not be entirely physical at all. But generally speaking, pain feels unpleasant (specific sensory play experiences being one notable exception), so it’s fairly easy to get on board the train of “pain equals something wrong.”
But I also sometimes hear a variant that troubles me:
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong so you can fix it.
Because, well, I’ve sort of given up pinning hope on the idea that what’s causing me pain (which, to the extent that can be determined, is a combination of active endometriosis, nerve damage, pelvic floor tension, scar tissue, and adhesions, with maybe some Crohn’s disease thrown in) is ever going to be fully “fixed.” Whether they phrase it as “gosh, we’ve never seen this before” or “yeah, these kinds of cases are always tough,” it’s pretty clear that specialists are at a loss for good alternatives regarding “what to do with [me].” At times, I feel I’ve disappointed them because my body didn’t give them the chance to show their awesome fixing skills, but whatever.
To be clear, I would be ecstatic if I suddenly found myself facing pain-free days. But in terms of actively pursuing different and new permanent (or relatively so) pain relief strategies — taking time, energy, and attention away from the rest of my life — I can’t keep doing that, you know? So I’m learning to let go of the desire that I will ever be “fixed.”
In that light, the purpose of pain being “so you can fix” what’s wrong rings hollow, even alien, to me. In fact, so does the concept of a purpose for pain at all. Because of this, it’s troubling when pain is approached solely from a framework of “fixing” — because it’s a framework that fails me.