when I first saw your question, I thought that the answer should be pretty obvious – until I started to think about it.
I think of myself as living pain-free but I do have the occasional pain, Thus my definition is that pain-free living is free of chronic pain that interferes with things I want to do. By that definition, I would have to include controlled chronic pain conditions as pain-free living. On the other side, emotional pain could be on the negative side of this equation.
The idea of living a life that includes exercise, healthy food choices, and stress management activities, is a common thread running through our industry.
One wrinkle to the human existence is that many people have chronic and/or genetic conditions that make that difficult. In fact, that may make just living each day difficult. Think arthritis. Before being able to focus on how good it feels to do those healthy things there is the underlying, everyday discomfort taking one’s focus, and shifting one’s baseline.
You might be interested in the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who popularized the idea of using mindfulness meditation for people for whom even a healthy lifestyle would not make them ‘pain free’. (chronic conditions for which pain medication or lifestyle choices will not fully make them pain free)
I don’t actually like the ‘pain free living’ way of putting this. Pain is a natural part of what it is to live. Pain exists so we do not burn ourselves by leaving our hand on the stove. People who do not process pain often get horrible injuries (like a kid jumping out of a tree and breaking a leg and feeling nothing). In my yoga I usually tell people ‘pain is your friend: it tells you where not to walk’. TOO MUCH pain can rob one of fully participating in one’s life, but difficulties are the way we learn resilience.
I kind of like the idea of living a fully present healthy lifestyle.
Very interesting question.
Thank you for the answers so far, everyone! It seems that this really is an area that shows that in order to achieve it, we have to be clear as to what specifically we are asking. The consensus seems to be to quantify the difference between acute and chronic, then to determine what can be managed and/or eliminated from chronic pain, with a focus on the overall quality of lifestyle.