An Anatomy of Pain: How the Body and the Mind Experience and Endure Physical Suffering

Abdul-Ghaaliq Lalkhen. Scribner, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-9821-6098-2
Lalkhen, member of the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the Royal College of Anaesthetists in London, debuts with an accessible survey of pain, a sensation that “reduces us all to our basest elements.” Drawing on research and his own experiences as a physician, the author explains that pain is largely misunderstood by both the public and medical professionals, noting, for example, that “we don’t really understand why human beings suffer with pain in the joints as they get older,” since there are no nerves in joint cartilage. He charts shifting cultural attitudes toward pain, notably in the use of anesthetics during childbirth, describing how it was once “a violation of God’s law” to dull labor pain, as it was thought that a mother’s pain helped her bond with a child. Lalkhen makes clear how much of pain is subjective: any person’s experience of it depends on their “psychological makeup, genetics, gender, beliefs, expectations, motivations, and emotional context.” Along the way, Lalkhen traces his experience from simply managing patients’ pain to understanding that their psychological and social circumstances must be factored into treatment. With insights both scientific and personal, Lalkhen’s study sheds light on a mysterious corner of physiology and medicine. Agent: George Lucas, InkWell Management. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/10/2020
Release date: 02/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-2076-8
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