cover image The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain

The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain

Haider Warraich. Basic, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5416-7530-8

Warraich (State of the Heart), a physician who suffers from chronic pain, explores the biology, psychology, culture, history, and treatment of pain in this fascinating meditation. Warraich distills pain into three components: nociception, “the sensory nervous system’s response to stimuli”; pain, the meaning given to the sensation; and suffering, the way one interprets that meaning. He posits that in medical contexts, these aspects are often conflated, and points out the how pill-based treatment that has resulted in “eerily similar cycles of opioid outbreaks” throughout history stems from an over-focus on the initial nociceptive response. Warraich draws on thinkers such as Descartes (who believed “only humans were capable” of feeling pain), Freud (who believed pain was closely tied to emotions), and Tolstoy (whose stories offer an example of “medicine’s new antiseptic approach to the management of pain”), and covers such emerging interventions as ketamine, cannabis, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Warraich makes a convincing case for a deeper understanding of pain and a “truly ‘person-oriented’ ” healthcare system: “Synthesizing our knowledge about the fundamentals of pain could move us closer to a future in which even if we hurt, we don’t suffer.” This solid survey makes a memorable case that those in pain need not suffer in silence. (Apr.)