Pain: The Science of Suffering by Patrick Wall

Pain: The Science of Suffering

byPatrick Wall

Paperback | May 7, 2002

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Pain is one of medicine's greatest mysteries. When farmer John Mitson caught his hand in a baler, he cut off his trapped hand and carried it to a neighbor. "Sheer survival and logic" was how he described it. "And strangely, I didn't feel any pain." How can this be? We're taught that pain is a warning message to be heeded at all costs, yet it can switch off in the most agonizing circumstances or switch on for no apparent reason. Many scientists, philosophers, and laypeople imagine pain to operate like a rigid, simple signaling system, as if a particular injury generates a fixed amount of pain that simply gets transmitted to the brain; yet this mechanistic model is woefully lacking in the face of the surprising facts about what people and animals do and experience when their bodies are damaged.

Patrick Wall looks at these questions and sets his scientific account in a broad context, interweaving it with a wealth of fascinating and sometimes disturbing historical detail, such as famous characters who derived pleasure from pain, the unexpected reactions of injured people, the role of endorphins, and the power of placebo. He covers cures of pain, ranging from drugs and surgery, through relaxation techniques and exercise, to acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation, and herbalism.

Pain involves our state of mind, our social mores and beliefs, and our personal experiences and expectations. Stepping beyond the famous neurologic gate-control theory for which he is known, Wall shows that pain is a matter of behavior and its manifestation differs among individuals, situations, and cultures. "The way we deal with pain is an expression of individuality."

About The Author

The late Patrick Wall was professor of physiology at St. Thomas's Hospital Medical School, London and a fellow of the Royal Society. His books include Defeating Pain, The Challenge of Pain, Natural Pain Relief, and Textbook of Pain.
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Details & Specs

Title:Pain: The Science of SufferingFormat:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 9.08 × 6.2 × 0.45 inPublished:May 7, 2002Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231120079

ISBN - 13:9780231120074

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Private Pain and Public Display2. The Philosophy of Pain3. The Body Detects the Brain Reacts4. The Whole Body5. A "Normal'' Pain Response6. Pains with Obvious Causes7. Pain Without a Cause8. How Treatments Work9. The Placebo Response10. Your Pain11. Other People's PainEpilogueIndex

Editorial Reviews

[Wall] provides a broad, comprehensive overview of the pain experience and offers a very interesting discourse on the complexities involved in understanding pain and its treatment... The chapters are well organized, with an introduction and closing summary, and... they include descriptions of fascinating studies that have led to breakthroughs in the study of pain....The information on central and peripheral mechanisms involved in pain sensation is well woven in with medical history and clinical cases. This book would be useful to upper-division undergraduates and graduate students entering the pain research arena. It would also interest pain researchers, faculty in academic medicine, medical students, and health professionals who treat pain.