Chronic Pain Is Highlighted On TV’s “House”

Episode Title: Painless (Season 5, Episode 512)
Writers: Thomas Moran & Eli Attie
Original Air Date: 1-19-09
Summary from the website: House (Hugh Laurie) and the team take on the case of a man living with such severe chronic pain that he tries to kill himself.

While the story of this episode begins fairly bleak, I know some people will find the content to be very realistic, which is exactly why I’m blogging about it. Personally, I am thankful that a television show has given chronic pain some cred. Chronic pain is certainly not your typical TV “disease of the week,” yet it deserves to receive some attention because it is largely misunderstood.

I’m not a regular viewer of House, but I do know that House himself suffers from chronic pain, which is part of what drives him to look at every possible angle in order to properly diagnose the chronic pain patient. Like a lot of us arthritis warriors, our disease can sometimes be difficult to identify. I know people who have been in pain for years, yet have gone that entire time without a true diagnosis.

We all know, all to well, that time spent in pain (diagnosed or not) is emotionally and physically taxing, as it is shown in this episode. Two quotes from “Painless” that perfectly illustrate that point: Patient: “I pray for strength more than hope.” (Wow, I can relate to that quote on a lot of levels.) House: “He’s [the patient] not in pain because he’s depressed. He’s depressed because he’s in pain.”

Another quote that really struck me from the episode is this one:

“You’re alone, that’s why you can handle your pain,” the patient explains to House. “No need to put up a front to be what anyone else wants you to be.”

This line makes me think that one of the writers responsible for this episode had some personal experience with chronic pain because it is dead on. On days that I don’t feel so great, but have to go to work, I’m definitely putting up that front. It’s become so automatic that I don’t realize it until I come home exhausted. Sometimes putting up that front is a necessary part of coping, I would get tired of hearing myself complain if I grumbled each time that I was experiencing pain. Plus, I think complaining on a regular basis would make my pain more difficult to manage. Anyone else agree with me?

I recommend giving this episode a look, so I embedded it in the post. Watch it with a friend or loved one and use it as a jumping off point for a discussion about your chronic pain. You can also check it out on or

If you have seen other shows deal with this subject, or arthritis, please let us know in the comments. I’d love to check them out, too.

I’ll leave you with this quote:
“Gotta let the phone ring more than four times when you are calling a cripple.” -House

3 thoughts on “Chronic Pain Is Highlighted On TV’s “House”

  1. Thank you thank you thank you.
    I was feeling all alone. I must admit my partner (god bless him) thinks I look sick and tired cos I am down, but I am down because I am sick and tired. I also go to work and put up that “front”. People ask me if I am “cured” until my next flare up or hospital visit, and then they are silent. People don’t understand and I don’t blame them. But it is exhausting being so “brave”, I constantly have to lie about how I am feeling to avoid feeling negative about the situation, but if I was honest then I would constantly be complaining and that is the last thing I want to be doing.
    I find having a focus like triathlon so fulfilling, I wish I could just concentrate on my mind and body for a few months rather than going to work. I’m not lazy I actually love the work I do, it’s just the people I feel I need to not be telling everyone how I am doing, constantly updating them on my medical condition it really bothers me.
    But once again thank you so much for your blog – it is the most awesome thing I have found on arthritis so far!

  2. I started watching House back in December of 2008 while I was hospitalized for my 3 hip replacement how fitting 🙂

    They had a House “Marathon” on most of the week I was there! Now I admit I am a huge House fan.

    I am so glad that you blogged about this episode. Many people don’t understand what it’s like to be in that much pain all day, everyday or even the lengths some people will go just to have the pain stop. Sometimes we don’t have or don’t think we have the strength to make it through to another day. Thank you for posting this link and your blog….I have told my friends in the past “You gotta let the phone ring longer, I’m a gimp-remember?” so when House said you “Gotta let the phone ring more than four times when you are calling a cripple.” I laughed so hard-it was great!
    Thank you for your Blog! I love it.

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