Pain vs Productivity

(Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a woe-is-me sympathy plea – merely a matter-of-fact perspective from someone who battles chronic pain 24/7)

So, in the battle between Pain vs Productivity – who do you think wins? And is it all the time? Most of the time? 50/50?

Here’s the answer:


Not occasionally, 50/50, 75% of the time, or even most of the time.


Pain kicks Productivity’s ass all day long, every day, all the time, without exception. Like you stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. Like me trying to post up on Shaq. Like any of you trying to stop a 275 lb steroid-filled lineman on a blitz.

And the longer and/or more intense the pain, the quicker the victory.

See, it doesn’t have to be mind-numbing, crippling, bring-you-to-your-knees pain to beat productivity.


Just a persistent, even moderate amount of pain, will bring you to your knees eventually.

Here’s an example: If I walked up to you and poked you in your arm, just moderately, you’d just laugh it off and wonder WTF I was doing.

However, if I kept poking your arm, regardless of the pressure, every 3 seconds, non-stop – how long before you would throat punch me? How much work could you get done? How focused could you be? How would it affect your mood? Would you be Mr/Mrs Positive? What would happen if I was doing that for 3 straight hours and then someone cut you off in traffic? How would you respond?

And that’s pretty much the story with chronic pain. It’s not always an 8, 9, or 10 on the pain scale – it is entirely unpredictable except for one aspect – it’s always there.

Not some of the time – A-L-W-A-Y-S. 

Might be a 2 for a while, then 5, then 8, then 1, then 4, etc. You get the picture.

Now go back to my example of arm poking. What if every 3 seconds you didn’t know how hard I was going to poke you? Maybe a light tap for a while, occasionally a moderate tap, then a random full-on punch just to mix it up.

Now revisit my questions about focus, mood, traffic response, etc.

Might be some different answers right?

(personal sidebar)
Here’s how I describe my version of chronic pain to people: You know those binder clips that you hold larger piles of paper with? Imagine a bigger version of those, wider, with softer edges. Put one of those on your left upper “trap” (the muscle between your neck and shoulder). Put another on your right upper trap. Then put a bigger one on your neck so it parallels your neck – one edge down the left side, another down the right side.

Now apply random pressures to them all, but they slowly increase throughout the day.

That’s my world.

But “my world” isn’t the point here – just a real-life example that I can describe in great detail. The point is the impact of chronic pain on productivity overall.

It destroys productivity, plain and simple

But when you think about it, it causes one to ask some “deep”, sometimes existential questions. Questions like…

Without chronic pain…

  • How much more stuff could I get done during the day?
  • How would it affect my mood?
  • Would I be a friendlier person?
  • How would it affect my outlook?
  • Would I care more about things?
  • How much less likely would I be to “gesture” at another driver?
  • What about exercise?
  • Would I eat better?
  • Sleep better? More? Less?

Pretty much endless questions will pop into your mind when you spend enough time in the “world” of chronic pain.

Here’s the other one to noodle a bit:

What would I do and/or give up to make the pain go away?

Hmmmm…that’s a tough one that varies very, very widely depending on the day.

But again, it is thought about and considered on a very regular basis.

And just how much more SH*T would I be able to get done if I wasn’t wasting all my time thinking about all these pointless questions?!


So….I share all that simply to give you perspective.

Chronic pain sucks ass – plain and simple.

It’s not fair, right, or whatever you want to call it.

It just is – end of discussion.

So those of us in the Chronic Pain Camp play the hand that we were dealt and work to be as productive as possible. Which is usually pretty darned productive, just to spite the chronic pain.

I could write a LOT more on this topic, and maybe I will someday. For today, just know that there are many, many things that can and do impact people’s productivity on a regular basis. For your sake, I hope that your productivity killer is gardening, watching sports, YouTube, or something a bit more “benign”.

My current evening productivity killer has been watching the Cubs do their best to NOT get into the playoffs. That doesn’t help my chronic pain either!