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How to Handle The Hell That Has No Pain

How to Handle The Hell That Has No Pain

Life with no pain can be dangerous for runners. Sometimes runners have to know how to handle the hell that has no pain or risk ruining their body.

The reason I wanted to frame it this way is because  so many runners assume that if they don’t feel pain they can push their bodies to the limit. This is a misconception that can quickly  put an end to their running.

Now that you know where I’m going, let me share with you the story of a group of people who are born with a mutant gene that renders them immune  from pain. They are born with congenital insensitivity to pain, and what you as a runner can learn from them.

Imagine not being able to feel a bone break—-until you wind up in a wheel chair.

Sounds scary?

It is. And  this is how it happens.

You are born with a condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain. (1) It’s not that you are indifferent to pain it’s that you can’t experience  pain at all.

Tips on feeling no pain
Feeling no pain


Now remember that pain is a reaction that tells the body that something is wrong with it. This allows you to exhibit the reflex so you can recoil from that boiling liquid that might peel your skin off your bones or stop you from chewing your own tongue.

For an interesting discussion on this topic, take a look at the above video in which  Katie Couric has a very informative interview.

To further understand the consequences of having  an insensitivity to pain, let’s talk about painless Pete.

The Story of Painless Pete-and His Congenital Insensitivity to Pain

Tips on Painless Pete
Meet painless Pete

He tells his story in an article by (3) Hayasaki Erika.

Pete pauses for a moment and recalls a white washington day a few years ago. “We had thick snow, and we went inner-tubing down a hill. Well, I did a scorpion, where you take a running start and jump on the tube. You’re supposed to land on your stomach, but I hit it at the wrong angle. I face-planted on the hill, and my back legs just went straight up over my head.” Pete got up and returned to tubing, and for the next eight months he went on as usual, until he started noticing the movement in his left arm and shoulder felt off. His back felt funny too. He ended up getting an MRI. “The doctor looked at my mri results, and he was like, ‘Have you been in a car accident? About six months ago? Were you skydiving?’ ”

“I haven’t done either,” Pete replied.

The doctor stared at his patient in disbelief. “You’ve got three fractured vertebrae.” Pete had broken his back.—The End of Pain

The End of Pain Doesn’t Mean Lack of Discomfort

So that means if someone suffering from pain insensitivity hit themselves with a hammer, they won’t feel the pain but still feel the pressure.

This is another way of saying they will still feel the discomfort.

So, keep this in mind: one may feel no pain but still has the discomfort.

Runner’s Ignoring Pain

Though not as extreme, you should began to understand that pain can be a warning that a certain action will jeopardize a runner’s health. let’s examine the circumstance  in which a runner’s situation  almost mimics that of someone suffering from pain insensitivity.

The End of Pain

in his book,(4) Running Injury Free,  Joe Ellis, a doctor and advisor to Runner’s World,  tells of how a patient of his had a three- month -old pelvic fracture that she was not aware off.

How Could This Happen, You May be Wondering?

Well, the patient Deb, was a training for the marathon. In addition to running she also did extra workouts. The result was that her groin area became so sore that she could hardly walk.

‘’anyone watching her walking across campus might think she needed crutches. she shuffled and limped, moaned and groaned. she had a hard time even getting up after sitting”. (4)

Here’s the interesting part. Deb’s pains, according to Ellis, would go away when she got into her run.

Can you guess where I’m going? Think about it.  Because she was running pain free, she figured she was okay.

She figured her sore muscles were just a discomfort and continued  running the marathon.

The end result was that she had to stop running for 4 months and experienced pain from the groin area for a year.


Now you know the importance of  not ignoring pain. That sore calf muscle that seems minor one day will develop into an achilles tendon tear if you continue pushing your self with more workout.

It wouldn’t be correct to say you  should see your pain as a blessing. God knows I have seen too many tears from those I care about carry on in daily pain.

However, every once in a while fate has a way of reminding us that there are those who suffer in worse ways. Yes, drinking something so hot it burns your tongue is no fun. But at least you can stop before lasting damage is done.

But what about not feeling the pain and not realizing that you are burning your esophagus. Yet having to live with the result. Can you imagine how terrible that must be?

So be grateful that you have a warning system that tells you to avoid danger and injury. Pay attention to what your pain is telling You. Also, one last hint. Do not ice immediately before training. It has, as Joe Ellis points out,” an anesthetizing effect and will block the pain response that gives you a warning signal of  an injury”. Running Injury-Free: How to Prevent Treat and Recover From Dozens of Painful Problems. 

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.


(1) Natural History Magazine “Hitting a nerve: pain and emotion are intertwined” 123.1 (Feb. 2015): p34.

(2).Uwire Text.  “Health Talk: Congenital insensitivity to pain (Mar. 1, 2016): p1.

(3) Wired “The End of Pain” 25.5 (May 2017): p84.

(4) Joe Ellis. (1994) Running Injury-Free: How To Prevent Treat and Recover From Dozens of Painful Problems

6 thoughts on “How to Handle The Hell That Has No Pain

  1. Hi Thabo,

    Wow! I had not realized that people would never feel pain when they get injured. That would have never crossed my mind. So basically it’s a condition very few people have which is Congenital insensitivity to pain. The story of Pete was almost so unbelievable because it’s hard to imagine someone walking about with a broken back.

    It sounds like people with this condition could still feel something in their bodies when they suffer a serious injury like discomfort. I can appreciate how important it is to feel pain even though I don’t like to feel pain but as a warning to us that we need to pay attention to what our brain is telling us. The video explained it very clearly.

    This is a very interesting post…thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Rosa,

      I,myself, was thrown for a loop when I first heard about congenital Insensitivity. The more I did  the research, the more I was convinced this story had to be told. I think most people, and I don’t blame them, think that living with out the ability to feel pain would be idyllic. However, living without the ability to feel pain means you have no warning system that, for example, would tell when you  are about to have a heart attack. I think that’s important to know. Feel free to contact me with any more questions that you may have.

  2. Very interesting. I haven’t heard of pain insensitivity before. I suffer from chronic pain and initially it sounds like it would be great not feel pain. Are you aware of any remedies to relive chronic pain?

    In retrospect I understand why not feeling pain could cause a person to injury themselves much worse.

    I guess a person should be careful what they wish for. I’ve thought to myself many times “I just wish the pain would go away”. Thank-you for bringing this issue to our attention.

    1. Hi Robert,

      My mother  suffers from chronic pain. So I have a deep understanding of the challenges  that daily pain poses to you. In fact, I created my website with the hope that I could bring both comfort and solutions to chronic pain sufferers. I wrote the post not in anyway to minimize what chronic pain sufferers go through, but more as   an exploration  of  what would happen if people felt no pain at all.

      But of course you do feel pain and are interested in finding ways to alleviate it. I would first start with an overview of a post I wrote that focussed on the many  options for treating chronic pain. You can then look at some individual options such as TENS therapy, physical therapy, back support cushions for your chair, Braces for your back. A standing  desk so you put less stress on your back. Essential oils for pain relief. Massage therapy, inversion therapy and so on.  Massage chairs are expensive but  people have found them effective. One can also get  a recliner especially  designed  for  give comfort and support.

      I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me should you have any more questions.

  3. This is another enlightening post up here!
    I have always thought an inability to feel pain only happens to people as a warning sign of leprosy. There I have heard the victims will start having a sense of numbness in their body causing them not to feel any slight sense of pain.
    But this one has just added to my knowledge. It’s really good to be here and this is worth sharing!

    1. Hi Mitchelle,

      I think a lot of people are unaware of what life would be like if they couldn’t feel pain. As I said, pain is a reaction that tells the body that something is wrong with it. This allows you to exhibit the reflex so you can recoil from that boiling liquid that might peel your skin off your bones or stop you from chewing your own tongue. If you didn’t have the warning of pain, you wouldn’t even know that you’re breaking your bones until it was too late. When I heard of this condition, I just knew I had to write about it. I’m glad that you found it valuable and worth sharing.

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