Rabbi Ben Hei says, “According to the pain is the gain.”

— Pirkei Avot 5:21 (second century)


If little labour, little are our gains:
Man’s fate is according to his pains.

Hesperides 752 (1650)

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no gains, without pains …

— as reprinted in Benjamin Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (1758)

Jane Fonda didn’t invent it. Neither did that guy at the gym you think is god.

The concept has been lying around waiting to become popular slang for almost 2000 years. It didn’t refer to matters physical, either. It referred to your soul, to charity, to work in general. It was never intended to be taken literally.

Just because words rhyme, doesn’t make them a concept, doesn’t mean they relate to each other. Or that it’s a concept that applies to your aching body rather than your dark, mean-spirited soul.


Pain is a body’s way of warning us something is wrong. Ignore it at your own risk. Acknowledging there are minor pains we all typically ignore because we know what they are, know they aren’t important, there are plenty of others you ignore at your peril.

How about the pain in your chest that signals heart trouble? How about that pain in your breast that says “don’t ignore that lump?” Or the shooting pain down one leg when you knock your spine out of alignment? How about the searing one when you dislocate a shoulder? Or the one, accompanied by an ugly snap which says “Hey, you just tore your Achilles tendon!”

Before you go ignoring a pain, make sure you know what that pain is trying to tell you. Try not to replace thinking with a motto.

I hate clichés. They are the latest fad in the long advance of stupidity.

Daily Post: Pains and Gains


Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. I really do not like to disagree, but I just returned to yoga, which is a very good thing, and yes I am sore. Really sore. I have begun to use muscles I had not been which I need to do in order to keep walking. So yep, I am disagreeing. With good reason. 🙂 Love, Amy


      1. Yoga works muscles you didn’t even know that you had, which is not being tired, just not strong. “In order to have understanding of an experience, one must first experience that experience through the classroom of Life.” I have YOU to thank, Marilyn, for another one of my little sayings. Namaste, and Bless you! Love, Amy


        1. As long as you know the difference between a warning and a sore muscle. Or a bad disc. Or your heart. I ignored back pain for years as a teenager because I just figured it was muscles. It wasn’t. It cost me dearly and for a lifetime.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sweetheart, I understand. Really. Surgeons want to put in a titanium cage in my back due to a severe injury I obtained years ago. The ONLY way I have stayed away from surgery and stayed walking, is through exercising, something that is really getting more challenging as I get older. I too ignored my back when young, and the “abuse” I allowed to go on with my body, way over doing at the gym and Martial Arts, yes has taken a toll. I wasn’t walking for two years after a back injury and two failed back surgeries. I totally get it, Marilyn. Those who push too hard don’t know their limits and that is when the line between healthy and dysfunctional is crossed. I used to do yoga for years, stopped, and now getting back into it, I am really sore. Yes, I would rather just NOT do this, but if I am going to stay away from that knife, I must do this. I agree totally with you that people who are very hard on their bodies, should not be. I’ve watched these macho men at the gym do these ridiculuos amounts of weight, which will end up catching up to them when they are older. All that pressure on joints is way not good. Getting older has made me wiser, slow down, but still I have to push a little bit just to stay one foot in front of the doctors. Sometimes I don’t know what that limit is, and I really take some chances. That is when I listen to my body … is this a good soreness, or one that could lead to more injury? Knowing your body comes in handy, and even I who knows my body, admits at times I don’t know. Sounds like you have been through a lot too. BIG (((HUGS))) coming your way!!!! Love, Amy


            1. I know the surgery you are talking about and you are wise to avoid it. There are serious questions about whether it actually helps anyone — except the surgeon by making him/her tons of money.

              I walk. And I try not to stay too still for too long because the longer I don’t move, the stiffer I get. My 47 years old spine surgery long since fell apart … what’s left is arthritis.

              They don’t warn you when you are an active youngster that being young doesn’t make you invulnerable, or that injuries sustained when you are a teenager will be with you 50 years later. I really was clueless.


              1. I was clueless too, Marilyn. Believe me. I pounded my body from athletics relentlessly. I was SO strong and I just loved working out. My niece is a ballet dancer, and I just cringe at the thought what she is going to be like at my age. Arthritis, yes I am riddled with. I too am not able to sit too long, getting so stiff. And yes, about that surgery. NO ONE is touching me. I know my body too well. I wouldn’t survive and if I did, I would be worse off now then I would be IF I went through with this surgery. This surgery is BARBARIC if you ask me! I am waiting for technology to be let through that will encourage my back to heal. Yes, I believe there is technology available now, but due to GREED of medicine is not being used. And here are people like you and me who suffer every day from pain. I walk in faith, and I will not let go that someday something will happen and someone will finally allow these life saving procedures to come through the GREED. *sigh* This world. I won’t even go there. So meanwhile my spine is decompensating, the disks dehydrating, leaving bone on bone. Yoga stretches me, strengthens me, gives me HOPE my spine won’t totally collapse. I was told in 2004 IF I don’t have this surgery I would end up in a wheelchair. Am I? NO! I take care of me and I have learned what works FOR ME and what doesn’t as well as doing what I LOVE … photography, writing, and taking care of special needs cats whom I LOVE with all my Heart. This is a tough way to live, and it sounds to me, you as well, know what I am talking about. IF we had only known, how things catch up …. but you cannot change the past. I really do encourage you to do what YOU must do to stay as pain free as possible. Meanwhile I am trying to figure out if the yoga is too much for my knees, that are also decompensating from the sciatic nerve damage. Smiling is good medicine so I do that as much as possible.

                Time to feed my babies their snackies …. and stretch and move around some. This blogging is SO tempting to keep sitting because I KNOW of so many wonderful people here. You take care!!! It really was SO good to talk to you!!! With Love, Amy

                Liked by 1 person

                1. For what it’s worth, my spine doctor, who is a big deal here in Boston, also thinks the surgery is barbaric and worse, that it increases pain and solves nothing. He is not the only one. But to the best of my knowledge, although there are some experimental treatments being developed, nothing practical yet. And given our ages and stages of arthritis, no one would try any of the experimental stuff on us even if we were silly enough to ask for it. So we slog on 🙂


                  1. Yes, we slog on, Marilyn. Our bodies are not meant to have metal and bolts and screws in them. *shudder* Even the knee replacements that have become so common today, I do not agree with at all. You are lucky to have a spine doctor who is honest and who is not bought out by the BIG GUYS. That right there gives me HOPE that medicine has doctors with morals. I’ve stayed away from surgeons, only going to a GP every six months. I’ve tried everything over the past 21 years since the injury occurred, and it really boils down to eating right, educating myself on what is good food, living right, (right mind), exercising and getting plenty of fresh air and sleep. I have seen both in myself and my cats, how powerful our bodies our to encourage healing when the right tools are in place. My husband and I just showed Animal Medicine something they have never seen … saving a cat’s leg from being amputed due to severe cellulitis and cell death with Homeopathy, Epson salt soaks, hydrotherapthy debridement, and yes antibiotics, narcotic pain medication, and IV fluid boluses. I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve seen it with my husband. WE are limited though on the fact that we don’t know all there is to know yet. I pray for those going into medicine now that someone will actually figure out how to help so many ill and hurting people that crowd this planet today. I have HOPE. (((HUGS))) Amy


  2. I will no longer visit the doctor. you have just cured at least one of my problems, the one with the shooting pain down one leg, but it only shoots if I stand on it – does that count? I also saw that Jane Fonda did not get their first – we both had a look in Wikipedia. After your advice I am now even thinking about giving up my Tai Chi, I cannot stand on one leg without falling.


    1. I can barely keep my balance on TWO feet these days. I also know that if I take a serious fall, there’s a very good chance I won’t be getting back up, so I don’t ignore pains unless they are very familiar old pains with which I have a long relationship. For those, I take Tylenol.

      I also Google stuff before I write because I hate having to retract everything. Besides, I was certain Jane didn’t invent that expression. I knew I’d heard versions of it before — from my mother, my Rabbi, various professors. I just wanted to make sure my remembering was accurate. These days, my rememberer isn’t as good as it used to be.


      1. I am with you all the way. I can still stand on two feet but I have Meniere and so I can unexpectedly lose my balance. Actually it is not so bad, Mr. Swiss is always saying “I’ll do that” , because he is fed up with picking me up.


        1. My son and/or my husband get this look on their faces when they see me doing stuff with disaster written all over it — literally rush in saying …. “STOP. I (we) will do that!” From chopping off pieces of my fingers while paring veggies, to trying to haul packages up or down (down is worse) stairs … I am, it would seem, a wreck waiting to happen.

          I don’t mind. That’s what men are for, are they not? When I was much thinner (much, much thinner), I used to faint. Often. That was before I knew I had a heart problem, but I was very lightweight, so hauling me upstairs was not so bad. These days, they’d need a stair-climbing forklift and we don’t happen to have one of those.


  3. Totally agree with you, Marilyn, about physical pain that needs to be acknowledged and never ignored. Maybe the other pain people above are referring to is more intellectual and could be defined more as tenacity in the face of obstacles more than pain. In art for example, many artists have to ‘suffer’ before achieving a result or gain. Hours of writing, of taking photos, dancing, painting, drawing, playing an instrument or singing will lead to some form of result, and sometimes to a really good artistic piece. So, although I agree that we need to be in tune with our bodies when they shout in pain, the pain that almost always accompany great intellectual effort and lead to some form of gain can be good. What do you think?


    1. When I was a kid, I rode horses. As often as possible. I fell off a few, which goes with the territory. You ride, sooner or later, you fall. After a while, when I rode, my back was terribly painful — so much so I could barely move. I refused to pay attention to it. As soon as I could move again, I was back on horseback. One day, after riding, it didn’t hurt. It was numb. As was my right leg. THAT scared me. Pity I waited so long, because most of the pain I live with today started then, with the damage my spine sustained when I was a teenager.

      Suffering for art is appropriate. I don’t think of it as suffering. It’s just work, time, application. That’s how it gets done and I don’t think there’s a shortcut. Despite all the angst, generally speaking, writer’s block or whatever your artistic issue is, won’t to kill you. On the other hand, there are people who would benefit from some suffering. What they call suffering is actually EFFORT, or what we call — work. They should try it. Good for the soul.

      My granddaughter’s crowd seems to think anything which requires they do stuff they don’t enjoy is suffering. They have some surprises coming when they enter the real world.


            1. Gotcha. Even years later, sometimes I reach for English and come up Hebrew. I still dream in Hebrew, which is weird because I could never speak that fluently. Language memory is funny.


  4. Cogent post. Pain, as you so VERY well know, is part of our daily lives these days. I expect it when I do normal things like lugging grocery bags, dragging the garbage cans up the driveway, etc ad nauseum. My grunts are real not theatrical. I expect to use Owen’s tread mill along with my own improvised daily work outs. It’s my goal to stay in decent shape so I can continue to do the grunt work. Maybe it’s a Marine thing. On your 6!


  5. This post reminded me of one of my pet hates. Reality TV, the version where a bunch of over weight, unfit people are forced to exercise way beyond their capacity and when they want to stop they are screamed at by some skinny fitness instructor. I worry that one of these contestants will die as a result of this get fit quick regime. I’m not saying obese people should not exercise but I don’t think sending them to boot camp is the way to do it.


    1. Not to mention the element of actual sadism involved. That people are so desperate for attention that they will expose themselves to it is sad. That so many people actually find it entertaining is downright scary.


        1. It’s our modern equivalent of gladiatorial games. And we love when someone gets killed. Not me or you personally, but enough people to make those shows profitable. Amazing how the entertainment format hasn’t changed in a couple of thousand years, eh?

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel I am in tune with my body. I can tell when something is out of balance. Because of some huge expensive incurred this past month I’m broke and must wait for the monies I get from my Boeing pension on September 02. Holidays interfere with deposit dates. I ran out of a number of my medications as a result. One of them, my water pill, is causing me discomfort right now as I swell up like a tick. I also had to wait for my doctor’s nurse to get authorization from a medical doctor to write the script for drugs I’ve been taking for two decades. But that’s another story. In the meantime I’m hanging in there waiting for Tuesday. 😦


    1. Massachusetts is giving all doctors a very hard time about pain meds in particular. They are convinced we are all junkies. Hard for the doctors, harder for the patients. There are meds I don’t take at all because I can’t afford them. Many of them are a healthier alternative to those I DO take, but insurance won’t cover them and I don’t have the money … so I do without. I think they treat us — older folks — shamefully.


  7. This us one if the reasons I like you, you often write posts I need to read.
    The message I need is often disguised in a secondary idea in your writing.
    Thank you writing Gods the day I found you.


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