When I was a kid, my swim team’s unofficial motto was “No pain, no gain.” Mind you, this was a recreational team (not a USA Swimming program), most of the kids were age 12 or younger, and our team name was the decidedly nonthreatening “Seals.” I didn’t think much of it then, but as a father now—and with the benefit of time—the slogan seems unsparing at best, brutal at worst.

Of course, there is truth to the sentiment of “No pain, no gain.” Very often there is some sort of suffering—physical or mental—associated with improvement and growth. And something in that maxim stuck with me: 10 years ago, when I was working as a freelance writer, I organized my calendar around triathlon training. There was quite a bit of agony in those days, but there was also a lot of progress. I loved many things about training and competing in triathlons, but the aspect of the sport I found most interesting was that it consistently forced me to deal with the fatigue and general discomfort that are central to training for endurance sports. What I learned during that time rivals some of the most valuable life lessons I’ve learned as a husband, parent, and co-worker. Put simply, giving up our creature comforts, if only for an hour a day, can teach us a lot about who we are and what we’re capable of—like being mentally strong enough to push through a painful interval and the self-confidence that comes as a byproduct of doing things you never thought you could do. Coloradans seem to intrinsically get this idea. Just head to Lookout Mountain on a weekend to see cyclists voluntarily pedaling uphill; or go to Eldorado Canyon to view climbers scaling towering rock walls; or visit Boulder’s well-traveled paths to catch sight of trail runners carefully selecting their footfalls.

But sometimes pain doesn’t have any higher purpose; sometimes pain is just pain, and, as anyone who has experienced acute or chronic pain will tell you, it just flat-out sucks. I’ve dealt with back issues since I was 18, and last year, X-rays confirmed what I’d already known for some time: I have degenerative disk disease. It’s minor at this point, but it’s happening—just as it’s happening to my mom in a much more severe way (and just as it happened to her father). In my case, with the help of a good doctor and physical therapy, I’m able to manage the discomfort. Others are not so lucky. Fortunately, as senior editor Kasey Cordell writes in “Pain In The…,” the hurt doesn’t have to be unending. Spread across the metro area, there are researchers, doctors, and specialists whose jobs—and passions—are to help us overcome our twinges, dull aches, and stabbing pains. Whether it’s the two-year-old headache clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital that’s assisting people who suffer from migraines or the doctor who’s treating those with chronic back issues or Muscle Activation Technique, which has been instrumental in extending Peyton Manning’s career, the health community in Denver is rife with options. So, if you’re suffering—no matter if it’s the self-inflicted variety or just plain old pain—I hope you’ll find Cordell’s package to be an invaluable resource.

This article was originally published in 5280 April 2015.
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke
Geoff Van Dyke is the editorial director of 5280 Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffVanDyke