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Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain

  • ISBN13: 9780156014038
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Tracking provided on most orders. Buy with Confidence! Millions of books sold!

A top neurosurgeon and acclaimed author’s unique and highly readable study of the paradox of pain, with fascinating anecdotes on childbirth, migraines, cancer, and more.

Medical science has made brilliant discoveries over the last century but as any cancer patient can attest, it has yet to conquer, or even fully comprehend, pain. Beginning with his own battle against severe migraines, and citing numerous case studies of his patients, in Why We Hurt Dr. Frank Vertosick explains how pain evolved, and by highlighting the critical functions it serves, he helps us to understand its value. Well written, expertly researched, and movingly told, each chapter offers an amalgam of medicine, history, anthropology, drama, inspiration, and practic

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 11:48 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments

  1. William C. Tom says:
    59 of 66 people found the following review helpful:
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Good read, but not always right, July 22, 2000
    By 

    Dr. Vertosick has written a fine collection of vignettes of patients suffering from chronic pain, from his perspective as a practicing neurosurgeon. Detracting from his storytelling skills, however, are the errors of fact and intepretation which appear throughout the book.

    Most egregious is the confusion of nitrous oxide for nitric oxide, the molecule used ubiquitously in our bodies for vascular regulation and neurotransmission. This is not simply a spelling error, since Dr. Vertosick goes ahead and mistakenly identifies the subject of the 1998 Nobel prize (nitric oxide) as “laughing gas” (nitrous oxide). Despite the similarity in nomenclature, the two gases are completely different in their physiological roles and effects.

    Perhaps in an effort to justify the grandiose title, many appeals to evolutionary theory are made. These efforts are stretches at best, and wrong at times. For example, the speculation that the malaise produced by the flu may be adaptive to humans by limiting viral spread through social contact ignores the fact that the individual, not the group, is the most important locus of Darwinian selection. A more likely adaptive explanation for the clinical symptoms of the flu is that inactivity and fever allow the infected body to concentrate its physiological resources against the invaders.

    In a discussion on how nitroglycerin relieves the crushing chest pain (and myocardial ischemia) of angina, the explanation was given that the body’s arteries dilate, thus making it easier for the suffering heart to pump blood forward. In fact. the major effect of nitroglycerin is to dilate the veins, providing the heart with lesser volumes of blood to pump.

    While lauding the pain relief given to his laboring wife by epidural analgesia, Dr. Vertosick reports that the epidural prolonged the birth process. Although there is a correlation between the use of an epidural and longer labor, the current medical literature attributes this to the likelihood that women with complicated- and longer – labor are more likely to request an epidural, not that an epidural prolongs the childebirth process.

    Finally, and this probably falls in the “nitpicking” category, the bacterium causing leprosy belongs to the same genus as that causing tuberculosis, not the same species as claimed in the book.

    I did not read the book with an intention to find errors, but there are mistakes which jump out at the biomedically literate reader. I would still recommend the book as a good introduction to the problem of chronic pain, written with sympathy and clinical insights. However, it is disturbing that a book written by a physician would contain so many factual errors of a biological or medical nature. I wish the author – or his editors – would clean up the text for a second edition.

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    ... on July October 11th, 2011
  2. Leslie Arden Foote says:
    38 of 44 people found the following review helpful:
    1.0 out of 5 stars
    lfootemd, August 26, 2000

    After reading the introduction I had great hopes of gaining some unique perspectives on pain from a teleologic standpoint. Unfortunately reading further only led to crushing disappointment.

    This is a book on pain that comes from a very narrow focus. Each chapter, opened with a clinical vignette, attempts to educate the reader as to the presumed cause of pain and then the treatment options. Written from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, it’s no surprise where this all goes. Unfortunately not everything in the realm of pain is going to take on the appearance of a nail which the author enjoys using his hammer on at the conclusion of each chapter.

    Chronic pain is an elusive character and seldom conforms to our needs for a “structural” answer. The author has sadly limited his overview of pain to those situations where a “surgical answer” is awaiting. Those varieties of pain that so often elude us in Medicine, such as Fibromyalgia, are not even addressed. What’s more distressing is that the emotional component of pain is given virtually no space in the book, and indeed is ignored. The Vignette on the malingerer is a case in point. The author’s idea of therapy was to announce to the patient that “nothing’s wrong” and go home. As much as malingering is a nuisance in any clinical setting, there still is pain–you just won’t find it on an xray.

    As a primary care physician I am concerned about the tone of this book. Many patients in my practice are in chronic pain SINCE they underwent one of these fancy neurosurgical proceedures. It’s clear to any of us that see patients in the aftermath of surgery that Medicine does not possess all the answers since it finds it distasteful to deal with the psychosomatic components of pain. The author only reinforces that viewpoint.

    In addition to the errors that the first reviewer noted I would like to add that acupuncture does not “treat the imagination” as the author smugly suggests. If a placebo effect were the only explanation than how does that explain the effects observed in veterenary settings?

    This is a book that may produce false hope in individuals with chronic pain.

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    ... on July October 11th, 2011