Understanding Chronic Pain

Understanding Chronic Pain

Understanding Chronic Pain

Understanding Chronic Pain


Two medical experts offer a handbook for people coping with chronic pain and suffering and for those who seek to understand and support them. 19 illustrations.


Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promise only; pain we obey.

—Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Chronic pain has been a cause of human suffering from the beginning of time. Stories about pain and its devastating consequences on the quality of human life have been recorded throughout history. Reference is made to King Ra in ancient Egypt who had bouts of severe head pain. In 1683 English physician Thomas Sydenham described the pain he had suffered from gout for thirty-four years. During the Civil War many surgeons wrote of the pain and suffering experienced by wounded soldiers, who, after amputation, were left with phantom limb pain. Sigmund Freud wrote about the effects of cancer pain after he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. Today, the medical literature is filled with examples of people who are left with chronic pain following an injury and the effects the pain has on the quality of their lives. Chronic pain can affect our ability to function in our jobs and can prevent us from participating in many activities that we once enjoyed. It affects relationships with our families, friends, coworkers, and employers. Chronic pain can be debilitating physically, emotionally, socially, and financially, and, unfortunately, it is not uncommon.

In the United States approximately 90 million people suffer from a chronic pain condition, with an estimated cost exceeding $125 billion annually in health care costs, disability compensation, lost productivity, and tax revenue. Chronic . . .

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