äMedicine convinces us that we can understand the human condition biologically. Pain teaches us otherwise. Pain, as we know it today, bears all the hallmarks of a subjective phenomenon that can only be understood by the person experiencing it. Yet even this belief has a history; a history that is closely tied to the genealogy of the physiotherapy profession.
Tony Ballantyne has explored the way pain became a vehicle for social reformers after the 17th century, shaping many of the health and social welfare reforms that were to follow. Ballantyne argues above that pain narratives were a powerful way for humanitarians to promote the belief that the state should take responsibility for the social ills it had caused (through war, communicable diseases, poverty, etc.). Physiotherapy grew from many of these social issues.
But how will it fare now that ‘the state’ has effectively shifted the burden of responsibility from itself, on to the individual to care for themselves? Should we be looking to the way we are now valorising pain science not only for what it can tell us about the body and the human condition, but also what it can tell us about the future for the profession?