Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain

Frank T. Vertosick, JR., Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24 (292p) ISBN 978-0-15-100377-8
This accessible and compassionate exploration of physical pain should be of great interest since, at one time or another, almost everyone has experienced severe or recurrent pain. As a neurosurgeon, Vertosick (When the Air Hits Your Brain) has treated patients with migraines, back problems, neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, angina and cancer. Drawing on case histories from his practice and on scientific research, he surveys the experience and the processes of pain, as well as the idea of it. He gives a brief, clearly stated history of painful conditions, explains how and why pain strikes and describes the various ways medical intervention can ease or eradicate pain. He also reflects on his wife's labor pains; details the history of anesthesia (a medical invention that he rates as ""high among the greatest achievements of our age""); and tells a series of stories about how he and his patients have dealt with their pain. He recounts, for example, how he worked with Anne, a patient whose ruptured disc prevented her from walking on one of her legs. First he tried physical therapy, steroids and narcotic medications to alleviate her pain. Then, when all these treatments failed, he performed the back surgery that enabled her to recover. Combining personal narrative with scientific explanation, Vertosick, who describes himself as ""a bit of a wimp"" who dislikes seeing patients in pain, displays an enormous dedication to relieving suffering. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-0-15-601403-8
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