This seems obvious, and yet we as a society seem to have chosen to ignore it. The problem is not just that pain is painful, although that is a terrible start. It’s how pain effects you.
Humans on the whole are remarkably adaptive. Parapelegics can emotionally bounce back from spinal cord injuries in two months. One of the very few things human beings never, ever adapt to, meaning they produce a permanent lessening of happiness, is pain. Pain (and long commutes) will continue to depress your happiness forever. If you lose a limb, phantom limb syndrome is actually a vastly bigger threat to your happiness than the physical disability.
Pain also effects what you are capable of doing. In the months leading up to dental surgery, I felt like Harrison Bergeron; I had to race to finish my thoughts before shocks of pain broke up the chain entirely, and I couldn’t have a thought that took longer than the space between shocks. I couldn’t really enjoy books anymore. I clung desperately to the feeling of accomplishment I got from “finishing a seven season TV series”, because I really couldn’t do anything else. * This is depressing in general, and endangered my ability to keep the job that gave me the money to fix the problem.
Then there’s what fear of pain does to you. Imagine if every time you socialized, there was a 10% chance you received massive convulsing shocks that took days or weeks to recover from. That would probably depress your socializing a lot more than 10%. Now imagine that applied to everything you ever do. And that fear made the effect worse. It would take series efforts of will to even hold a job, much less a full and satisfying life. And while any given bout of socializing could be dismissed as a luxury, human beings inevitably get depressed when deprived of social contact entirely.
Pain makes it harder to treat the root cause of problems. Exercise helps back pain, but back pain makes it hard to exercise. I couldn’t get my cat to accept eye drops for his extremely painful corneal ulcer until I started giving him pain medication. It only took two days for the eye drops to help enough that he no longer needed pain medication, but without those two days he might very well have lost the eye.
So I’m going to proceed from here in the understanding that pain is not only very bad, but often a bigger threat to people’s total well being than physical limitations or even fear of death.
*In fact, you can track my discovery of useful pain relief and when the root problem was fixed via my blogs and my goodreads queue. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be able to enjoy reading again.