The man who feels no pain

Last week we posted a blog about dealing with chronic pain. Now, we take a look at the curious case of the man who feels no pain at all, and why for him this has been more of a burden than a blessing…

Some people suffer debilitating pain everyday, for years and sometimes decades on end.

For them, the idea of a life with no pain at all probably sounds like bliss.

For Steve Pete, born in Washington State, U.S., the reality is somewhat different.

When he was a toddler, Steve bit off part of his tongue without even realising. It was then that his parents realised there was something wrong, and he was soon diagnosed with a genetic condition called congenital analgesia, which meant he felt no physical pain.

Now in his 30s, Steve has never experienced a headache or a sore throat, he has no idea what it feels like to stub a toe, or trap a finger, and he doesn’t need anaesthetic when he has teeth pulled out at the dentist.

However, the repercussions of his condition are serious and extremely problematic.

Acute pain is a warning system for our bodies. It alerts us to the fact that something is harming us. Because of his condition, Steve often has no idea that he’s hurt himself.

Steve says as a child he and his brother, who has the same condition, would push their bodies to the limits in the way that young boys often do. Now, however, they are paying the price: “You incur so many injuries as a child that as an adult you start to deal with the repercussions of all those injuries, like having arthritis starting to set into your joints, and mobility issues.”

Steve has agreed to take part in a new exhibition running at the Science Museum in London.

‘Pain Less – the future of pain relief’ explores the complexities of human sensory experience and looks at possible therapies for treating pain, from spider venom to virtual reality trickery.

The exhibition runs from November 8th 2012 to July 2013.

To explore alternative therapies for dealing with pain, please visit our Therapies Topics page.

View and comment on the original BBC News article.

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Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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