Pain

The Science of Suffering

Patrick Wall

Columbia University Press

Pain

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Pub Date: May 2002

ISBN: 9780231120074

192 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $26.95£21.00

Pub Date: July 2000

ISBN: 9780231120067

192 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00£62.00

Pub Date: May 2002

ISBN: 9780231529402

192 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $26.99£21.00

Pain

The Science of Suffering

Patrick Wall

Columbia University Press

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."
In this generally thoughtful text, Wall offers his belief in the benefit of narcotic medications for cancer patients in pain. Publishers Weekly
Wall is a sage neuroscientist who challenges younger pain researchers and the 'new breed of clinicians' to create a contemporary picture of a 'subtle multiplexed reactive system' we call the neurological response to pain. Library Journal
Despite his impressive academic qualifications, Wall writes lucidly, using vivid examples, stories from his own life, and a general dose of personal opinions. Readers may find they know more about pain than those who should be experts—such as their doctors Kirkus Reviews
You won't meet a finer piece of popularization this year than Patrick Wall's crack at one of medicine's greatest mysteries. And his book commands attention, coming as it does from the world's expert on the subject. Roy Porter, The Times (London)
A first-class, well-written account of what is known about pain and how to relieve it, by one of the world's greatest experts on the subject.... We are all frightened of pain, and we all need to know more about it. This short, comprehensible summary could not be bettered. Both those who suffer and those who attempt to relieve suffering will learn a great deal from it. Anthony Storr, The Sunday Times (London)
[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. C.S. Weisse, Union College (NY), Choice
Preface
1. Private Pain and Public Display
2. The Philosophy of Pain
3. The Body Detects the Brain Reacts
4. The Whole Body
5. A "Normal'' Pain Response
6. Pains with Obvious Causes
7. Pain Without a Cause
8. How Treatments Work
9. The Placebo Response
10. Your Pain
11. Other People's Pain
Epilogue
Index

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.