The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering

Melanie Thernstrom, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-86547-681-3
Imagine a "terror that surpasses all description," novelist Fanny Burney wrote in 1812 after removal of a breast abscess— without anesthesia. Then imagine such pain stalking you for years, as it does Thernstrom (Raj: The Making of British India) and 70 million other Americans. This is what Thernstrom describes in an exquisite, meticulous history of medicine’s quest to alleviate pain—from the first use of ether for surgery in 1842 to the modern management of chronic pain: drugs like Neurontin and controversial opioids (though they can make patients even more sensitive to pain); MRIs; and neuroimaging, which trains patients to literally change their own brains. But the personal chronicles lift this accomplished medical history to an astonishing record of courage and endurance. Danielle Parker goes to 85 doctors before finding back pain relief from a chiropractor who urges her to move around instead of reaching for a pill. Thernstrom herself ultimately finds a regime of physical therapy, Botox, Celebrex, Tramadol, and then changes her wish for a pain-free life to one filled with love and family. In these stories, there is a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and hope for the rest of us. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/17/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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Paperback - 418 pages - 978-0-312-57307-2
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