Whilst travelling in France recently, I came across a lesser known (outside of France anyway) pain science icon: The French surgeon Rene Leriche (1879-1955). Whilst pioneering interventions for pain in the 1930s, Leriche questioned pain’s effectiveness as an internal alarm system and was quoted as saying:
“Physicians too readily claim that pain is a reaction of defence, a fortunate warning, which puts us on our guard against the risks of disease…..Reaction of defence? Against whom? Against what? Against the cancer which not infrequently gives little trouble until quite late? Against heart afflictions which always develop quietly? One must reject, then, this false conception of beneficent pain.”
Despite the passage of time and a compelling amount of contemporary evidence, Leriche’s words still resonate strongly throughout many practice settings. Like many clinicians around the globe, I frequently see people who have been handed harmful and misguided beliefs about their pain by fellow practitioners. Often these unhelpful beliefs lead to unhelpful behaviours which are often difficult to overcome. Once the uncertain, linguistic seed has been planted, the roots of worry bed in at great pace and with considerable downward force.
So merci beaucoup Rene Leriche. Lets hope that pain’s future has a less alarming ring to it.