The gift of pain

Tom's jarPain is the gift no one wants! Why would you? It is a sensation that we naturally want to avoid, and no one wants to experience it. Yet sometimes, pain can be a good thing.

The picture on the right shows a number of items I have found in my patients’ shoes. These patients were experiencing severe neuropathy with loss of protective sensation (LOPS), meaning they had limited feeling in their feet. This is a common issue for patients with diabetes; according to the ADA, 60-70% of patients with diabetes will develop some form of neuropathy as a result of their disease. My patients were completely unaware of these items in their shoes, and to make matters worse, some of them had developed wounds or foot ulcerations as a result.

This photo says to me, “What you don’t know can hurt you.” If my patients had protective sensation and could have experienced pain, they would have been alerted to the presence of a thumbtack or toy car in their shoes. In these cases, pain would have been a gift. Their pain would have served as an alarm system notifying them of a problem, and potentially helping them to avoid the wounds and foot ulcers they experienced.

It is time to start thinking about pain in a different context.

Our ability to experience sensation, including pain, is indeed a blessing. In the field of diabetes, Dr. Paul Brand popularized this concept of the “gift of pain.” Dr. Brand advanced our understanding of how neuropathy contributes to the development of diabetic foot ulcerations and how important protective sensation is in maintaining healthy feet. In fact in his lab, Dr. Brand determined that the 10-gram monofilament is the most effective tool to screen for severe neuropathy and loss of protective sensation (LOPS), was developed in Dr. Brand’s lab.
The great work of Dr. Brand and many other dedicated researchers in the field of the diabetic foot ultimately inspired us at Fit2Walk. We know pain is a gift, and we strive to help those with diabetes realize when that gift is gone. 
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