No Pain!

Pain relief has become a hot issue in the Veterinary profession in recent times. The practice of avoidance of pain in our society borders on obsessive and suppression of pain is a multi-million dollar industry.  Yet, pain itself, is a natural protective mechanism that needs to be heeded.  How can we do justice to all of these facts?

The issue of pain management in Veterinary procedures arises purely because we usually cause the pain, not deliberately but as a result of surgical interventions in most cases.  Animals presenting with severe pain from trauma and accident are, of course, separate cases and those with chronic pain from longstanding chronic diseases, yet another.

Just over a decade ago it became routine for us to administer pain relief for any surgical procedure conducted on an animal.  First it was offered to owners as an elective ‘add-on’ to the procedure and then it was adopted universally as routine. The practice of administering pain relief following surgery has now developed into a policy and is considered ‘good veterinary practice’. Few would argue with this.

This blog posting is less intended to debate whether or not or how pain should be alleviated, but more to contemplate how obsessive we risk becoming by the mere mention of the term ‘pain’.  It has become as big a seller as ‘sex’. It is also possibly the largest source of revenue for the pharmaceutical industries that invest much in suggesting we use medicines to avoid confronting anything challenging.

Why, apart from that would we be so focussed on it?
Perhaps pain is also one of our biggest buttons?
We are all scared of pain.

Pain engenders fear and our natural response is avoidance, validated in large by those who prey on and profit from our fear. Life can be difficult and who can blame anyone for opting out occasionally? The problem occurs when opting out becomes habitual and acceptable even to the point of not realising that there are other options. This is how pain management has evolved this past few decades so that we now have a whole generation for whom ‘headache’ means ‘panadol’.
Remember, however, that there are countless chronic pain sufferers in the world who are daily challenged to find new ways to relieve their pain because nothing that these companies can offer is effective. I pay tribute to these brave souls and reflect on how this situation could have come about.

Understandably, no one wants animals to be in pain either.

Often the animals themselves are less in pain than they are frightened and sedation would be more appropriate. Most of the heavy duty restricted pain medications co-incidentally have quite a sedative effect built in as opiate derivatives. Nonetheless, the actions surrounding perceived suffering require a balanced approach. It is not good to suppress all pain all the time because it is a natural protective mechanism that reminds us what we really need to do. What ever happened to the ‘good lie down’ with the good old ‘Bex’?
These days its just Bex and more Bex. *

*Bex pills and powders are an Australian cultural icon immortalized in the title of
a 1960s Philip Street Theatre review, itself borrowed from the vernacular: ‘A cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down’. And while everyone knew that the analgesic properties of the aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine in Bex and Vincent’s Powders were used by Australian housewives to help them get through the day, it took a doctor newly arrived from South Africa in the 1960s, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, to recognise that these substances were addictive and that the massive doses of phenacetin taken by habitual users were causing widespread kidney disease. Eventually, in response to political activism, government controls were put on analgesic products in the 1970s.

‘If pain persists consult your doctor’. Perhaps one of the reasons that pain persists is because it needs to be heeded rather than suppressed. This sounds simplistic but in many cases it is simple.
An injured animal will have a drink of water and take the time to rest and stay off the injury. This simple act gives the animal time to deal with its ailment and is absolutely necessary for proper healing. Contrast this with the current practice in the human world of taking a panadol or nurofen and continuing the activity that precipitated the pain.  Pain can be incapacitating for good reason.

Blocking pain does not make the cause of pain go away.

Interestingly, pain is quite often alleviated by adequate hydration and rest.  Very few of us drink enough good water. Good water is fresh, alkaline and mineralised. Not many take the time to rest when necessary.
There is a fantastic body of research demonstrating the marked effectiveness of drinking water as a cure for even the most severe pain.
Water is a time honoured life giving and healing force of nature that has been largely underappreciated and outrageously overwhelmed by commercialised beverages.


There are many who may enter the discussion at this point and express an opinion on the over commercialisation of pain control and the influence this has on our reluctance to ‘bite the bullet’ and manage our pain or that of our dear ones naturally, through drinking water and resting.

I would agree with them.  We have been coerced into taking the easy ‘payment required ‘option without realising it has ramifications. We have outsourced everything from birth to death and this even includes paying to attempt to avoid the lessons of life and suffering that occur in between.

My field of experience is in the animal world and whilst this is influenced less by direct advertising, the mind set of the owners is largely determined by the human world coupled with a somewhat over developed sense of responsibility towards the animals.  This is partly why so many thousands of animals are euthanized annually. The act of euthanasia can provide an opportunity for the avoidance of suffering and ironically becomes an easily purchased way out of the burden of responsibility that we were previously so eager to assume.
Euthanasia deprives them of a natural death and death is as natural and necessary an experience as life itself.

Animals know how to cope given the right environment. It is we who need to rediscover or redefine our own coping mechanisms; take back control from the brainwashing of advertising and fear based hype surrounding health issues such as pain management and feel more confident that animals can cope with life and its lessons. They can actually teach us much if we give them the opportunity.

It is alright for us and animals to experience discomfort or pain occasionally.

Pain is a natural warning to slow down, sit back and reassess. It is an important learning experience. Animals usually know what to do about that. It is very often our own irrational fear of pain and the ready availability of ‘quick fixes’ that drives us to take further and often unnecessary measures.

Sadly, out of an understandable concern for our pets’ welfare we kill or seriously maim many cats and dogs by giving them human pain medications like panadol. Most human preparations are directly toxic for animals and often indirectly toxic for us.


Whilst the fear of pain is often more prolonged than the pain itself, some animals have a higher pain threshold than others.
The sensitivity of the emotional body and the reactivity of the animal at this level may render them more prone to pain reactions.  Fear will be misdiagnosed as pain. A small highly strung little dog will yelp and scream often at the slightest provocation or smallest injury owing to their hypersensitivity. This is still a real experience for the little animal but perhaps needs to be treated by rescue remedy or something other than pain relief. In fact, pain relief will often not even be effective unless it has some sedatory or calming effect.

The brain registers and records the nerve stimulus that is pain. Pain will be felt in limbs that have been amputated because the brain has a blueprint of the whole body and a record of events having occurred previously.  There is no current pain stimulus but the brain registers pain nonetheless.
This raises the very real possibility that the perception of pain in some cases is just that, a perception.

No amount of pain relief medication is going to cure this pain because there are no real nerve impulses to block.

I believe that a lot of chronic pain is also this phenomenon regardless of the presence or absence of the body parts.  No real or immediate pain stimulus but definite pain perception from previous episodes. Fortunately I don’t think that this situation occurs often in animals but perhaps it has yet to be identified.  It is largely a mind or memory driven phenomenon and requires mind control or memory alteration, both cellular and neural, to manage it effectively. This is why meditation or hypnosis and other energy based techniques can work so well. Animals are generally spared these experiences.

I am reminded of a case recently of a woman who suffered from chronic lower back pain for many years with no long term relief from medication or conventional management methods. After visiting a spiritual healer, see video here, one who sees beyond the physical, she was cured permanently in a few minutes.
This stretches imagination unless you are the one experiencing it for yourself but I fully believe that this happened as a result of curing the unseen effect upon this woman’s body; in this case, the result of a serious trauma in a previous incarnation and stored in her cellular memory.
Trying to suppress this pain with pain control medications achieves nothing and prevents the individual from dealing with the underlying cause regardless of whether or not the medicine relieves the pain.
I only mention this to highlight how little we really understand sometimes in cases that we deem incurable and to allow trust and faith in both our own ability as practitioners and the capacity of our patients to determine more our course of action.

I truly believe that animals are largely spared most of the types of pain that we as humans suffer and that our limited understanding often prevents us from giving them the opportunity to manage their own condition in the best possible way.

Finally, with regards to pain, let’s take it perhaps as just another symptom in the big picture of disease and try to keep it in perspective. It is a symptom that needs to be always heeded, always respected and not always suppressed. The culture of ‘avoidance’ surely cannot possibly teach us anything ultimately worthwhile as it is a self perpetuating cycle. The acceptance of pain, however and the ability to manage it through an integrated approach can bring satisfaction, strength and more permanent relief at all levels.

This acceptance can then also enable the experience to become another opportunity to learn yet a little more about the miracle of life.


2 Responses to “No Pain!”

  1. From Animal hospice care (part 1): the unhurried death – The Dependable Companion

    […] Nonetheless, the actions surrounding perceived suffering require a balanced approach.” writes Dr Pearson from Paws to Heal veterinary […]

  2. From Altha Haring

    Nice posting, keep writing please. My spouse and i just started studying techniques of pain relief as well as understanding pain, therefore , appreciate it.

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