Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain

Why We Hurt: The Natural History of Pain

by Frank T. Vertosick, Jr. M.D.
     
 


As much as we detest pain, it remains curiously indispensable. Medical science still struggles to conquer pain, yet those who feel no pain at all live in great peril. Dr. Frank Vertosick, a practicing neurosurgeon, explores this paradox, using pain as a lens to give insight into how our bodies function. C. S. Lewis called pain God's megaphone: it gets our… See more details below

Overview


As much as we detest pain, it remains curiously indispensable. Medical science still struggles to conquer pain, yet those who feel no pain at all live in great peril. Dr. Frank Vertosick, a practicing neurosurgeon, explores this paradox, using pain as a lens to give insight into how our bodies function. C. S. Lewis called pain God's megaphone: it gets our attention and warns us of danger. Using stories of patients in pain, Dr. Vertosick explains how pain evolved and why it functions the way it does. Beginning with his own battle against severe migraines, he goes on to explain other common pain syndromes-back pain, angina, cancer pain, arthritis, childbirth, and carpal tunnel syndrome. A fine writer and empathic physician, Dr. Vertosick combines the scientific beauty of the bestselling How We Die with the superb storytelling of Oliver Sacks. He gives us a mixture of medicine, history, anthropology, drama, inspiration, and practical advice. For people in pain, as Dr. Vertosick explains so well, knowledge is often the first, and best, analgesic.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Jerome Groopman
...a feat of literary alchemy. [Vertosick] transmutes the lugubrious subject of pain into a provocative and edifying treatise that tightly engages the reader.
New York Times Book Review
Carole Horne
Vertosick brings commendable, accessible understanding to the knotty question of pain...
Washington Post
Newsday
Fascinating . . . Falls squarely in the territory of Oliver Sacks.
Chicago Tribune
[Vertosick] tells personal anecdotes about his own migraines and crafts stories of emergency room horrors with a deft sense of suspense and timing.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This accessible and compassionate exploration of physical pain should be of great interest since, at one time or another, almost everyone has experienced severe or recurrent pain. As a neurosurgeon, Vertosick (When the Air Hits Your Brain) has treated patients with migraines, back problems, neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis, angina and cancer. Drawing on case histories from his practice and on scientific research, he surveys the experience and the processes of pain, as well as the idea of it. He gives a brief, clearly stated history of painful conditions, explains how and why pain strikes and describes the various ways medical intervention can ease or eradicate pain. He also reflects on his wife's labor pains; details the history of anesthesia (a medical invention that he rates as "high among the greatest achievements of our age"); and tells a series of stories about how he and his patients have dealt with their pain. He recounts, for example, how he worked with Anne, a patient whose ruptured disc prevented her from walking on one of her legs. First he tried physical therapy, steroids and narcotic medications to alleviate her pain. Then, when all these treatments failed, he performed the back surgery that enabled her to recover. Combining personal narrative with scientific explanation, Vertosick, who describes himself as "a bit of a wimp" who dislikes seeing patients in pain, displays an enormous dedication to relieving suffering. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Neurosurgeon Vertosick (When the Air Hits Your Brain, 1996) presents a clear and in-depth study of the nerve-racking nature of human pain. Vertosick does not progress chronologically through medical or evolutionary history, as the words "natural history" might suggest. Instead, he organizes his study in a much more engaging way, with thorough examinations of various types of pain that afflict patients of every class and age. The variety of these tribulations is astonishing: Vertosick devotes entire chapters to migraine, "phantom," and back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, childbirth, and cancer pains. At its core, Vertosick's study is a series of case studies, each one presenting his explanation of the patient's ailment and portraying the steps he and other doctors took to alleviate the pain. These topics are sometimes quite personal to Vertosick, who once found himself in the "Shadowlands" of pain (suffering migraines for over a decade before learning to treat them himself). Vertosick's suffering may explain why he is such a sympathetic writer, giving due attention to emotion and science with each case study he presents. Whether recounting his wife's mid-labor abandonment of "natural" childbirth or investigating a milkman's mysterious arm pains, Vertosick tells each story with an eye for critical analysis and a heart that understands and shares in the patient's plight. He also takes note of religion, philosophy, and literature throughout, providing a holistic look at a topic that science alone cannot explain away. Vertosick's work can be useful to those who suffer from chronic pain, as well as to those who want tobetterunderstand the complexity of the body and the nature of human frailty.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151003778
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/15/2000
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Harold Kushner
Writing with eloquence, clarity and wit, Dr. Vertosick has given us a masterful book on a subject of concern to us all.
— (Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >