The Truth About Chronic Pain


“Books For A Better Life” Award Finalist!

There is a saying among motorcycle aficionados that there are three kinds of riders going down again. Pain and loss, if not agony and death, are inevitable consequences of perching atop two small patches of rubber at speed, yet thousands of motorcyclists rack up millions of miles every year. If you ask a biker about the trauma he is someday likely to face, he will probably tell you that pain is a part of life, and that since there is no getting away from it, he might as well enjoy himself until it arrives. Riding a motorcycle may be stacking the odds, but the fact remains that all that differentiates a healthy, pain-free person from a person in chronic pain is age, exposure to a toxin, a pathogen, an act of terror, or, as in Greek tragedies and the aboriginal world, the venom-filled fangs of a snake in the grass.

If pleasure and pain are the twin poles of human experience, and if, as many behaviorists argue, we are driven toward pleasure and away from pain, we ought to have the right to live according to this biological imperative and be as pain free as nature intended. Yet while food stamps assure our right to eat and homeless shelters assure our right to a roof over our heads, nothing in the United States today certifies for us the right to live free from controllable chronic pain. Indeed, chronic pain has reached epidemic proportions in our country: estimates range from 25 million sufferers to 75 million. Unlike the acute pain of a motorcycle accident, or the pain that comes from cancer or AIDS, much chronic pain derives from conditions that are less dramatic, less familiar, and less well understood. Chronic pain may show with a grimace, a cane, a bottle of pills, a short temper, or, in the case of the devout Stoic, it may not show at all. Whatever the exterior landscape reveals, however, the interior landscape of the chronic pain sufferer is barren of self-confidence, enthusiasm, relationships, personality, identity, and ultimately the tiniest shred of joy.

As you read this, you can be certain that someone in your own personal universe is in chronic pain. It may be someone whose life only grazes your own, or it may be someone who shares your toothbrush. The cause may be trauma, cancer, diabetes, an autoimmune or inflammatory condition, or one of myriad degenerative diseases of aging, but the stunning fact is that even though most of this pain can be eliminated or greatly reduced, it is not. Despite the fact that we live in the most affluent and technologically advanced nation in the history of the world, millions of people continue to suffer for no good reason at all.

Pain is a part of life, and in this engrossing book Rosenfeld, an author and journalist, provides a forum for discussing all aspects of managing it. In more than 40 interviews, he allows patients, caregivers, educators, legislators, enforcers, and clergy to speak out on the medical, ethical, moral, religious, legal, cultural, and fundamental, life-consuming reality of chronic pain. As growing scientific evidence suggests that controlling patients’ pain improves their medical outcome, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has issued new standards for pain assessment and management by adding pain as a fifth vital sign (after heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration) to the medical record. Treatment of chronic pain challenges medicine to overcome many barriers, and this excellent book presents intelligent, professional, and compassionate answers from experts. For all health collections.

James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information

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A revealing look at the war on chronic pain, told in the words of pain sufferers and those who treat them.

Chronic Pain couldn’t be timelier considering how the United States is finally waking up to the issues that millions of Americans suffer from every day. Even though I first read this book as a review book, I had no idea how validating it would be to me personally. Furthermore, I learned quite a few things.