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Thread: Great Book about Pain

  1. #1

    Great Book about Pain

    Several years ago, my husband bought me a book entitled Pain, the Fifth Vital Sign: The Science and Culture of Why We Hurt by Marni Jackson. I never read it. At the time (2002), I was deep in the throes of RSD brought on by surgery to remove a ganglion cyst that ought to have simply been drained, and I just wasn't up to reading about pain on top of experiencing it. But yesterday I ordered the book recommended by Cass, The Pain Chronicles, and decided to read this earlier book as a prelude to the newer one. Well! It is simply marvelous and I strongly recommend it. I was completely hooked by the time I finished the introduction, and couldn't put the book down - am nearly finished with my first reading of it and just had to post a recommendation here.

    Jackson's book is as beautifully and sensitively written as a lyric poem, but also warm, humorous and humane. It explores the understanding and treatment of pain in its cultural, spiritual, psychological and medical dimensions, and includes anecdotal information from patients and interviews with doctors. The book has already helped me to think about chronic pain from different perspectives, which is a blessing because my thinking has grown mighty stale and stiff over the years.

    This book is available at bargain prices from Amazon Marketplace sellers. I am now looking forward to reading The Pain Chronicles when it arrives, whereas I was hesitant to order it for the same reasons I never read this book.

    I debated whether to post this in the new Books forum or here, and decided that here might be better because the book is so strongly focused on pain, per se. But of course the moderators might not agree with that choice, and apologies in advance if the thread needs to be moved.

    (Edited to add: You can read the first six pages of the introduction by using the Look Inside function on Amazon - the intro gives a very nice sense of how the rest of the book unfolds.)
    Last edited by Bonnette; 09-17-2010 at 07:58 PM. Reason: Addition of more info

  2. #2
    I just ordered the book from Ebay. The seller was in Colorado. Am I getting your copy?

    I look forward to reading it.

    So what else did you gain from reading this book, Bonnette?

  3. #3
    Ha! Nope, not my copy - it's staying close to home!

    I think the main thing I'm getting from this book is that pain is not only the one-sided thing I experience (i.e., IT HURTS) - it represents an entire universe, a layered reality all its own that artists, theologians, philosophers and scientists have tried to navigate in different ways in different eras. This is important to me, because I have tended to think of pain as monolithic - that it is (and always has been) this way or that way, and that even though it has personalized manifestations, it's still basically one stone with many facets. I have tended to think about pain, and scientific discoveries about managing it, according to a linear model - but that is not the only valid approach, or even the most helpful. The process might be much more fluid than I have appreciated.

    The book has helped me to think about pain from different perspectives, and without feeling like a fool in the process (it's very down-to-earth, not New Age-y at all). It has helped me not to feel so tethered by the pronouncements of neurologists and radiologists. They have their place, and I need their input - but they occupy only one floor of the building, one acre of the field.

    One reason that I initially stayed away from the book, is that it was written by a lay person. In 2002, I craved an authoritative Word, not an engagement. Now I understand that Jackson's questions form a more important framework than the provisional answers I used to regard as my guiding lights. The book doesn't romanticize pain, it humanizes it and invites me to rethink some of my assumptions.

    I so hope you like the book, Arndog. Please let me know your views on it, if you're comfortable doing so.

  4. #4
    Arndog, a bit of a "heads up" for when your book arrives...after the introduction, there are about 70 pages of rather dry background information about pain and what different specialists think it is. Jackson is a journalist, and the style of the first six chapters reflects that. But then the book really starts to sing! It might sound odd to say that I hope you enjoy a book about pain, but honestly I found it riveting, deeply insightful and not depressing at all - quite the opposite, in fact.

  5. #5
    Hi All,
    I found it fascinating that you found this book! I for one seldom read books on pain because it is just a reminder of what I (and You) live with every day! However, this book is so different! As you indicated it is very interesting, wonderfully written so that everyone can understand, not just academics and physicians. I met Melanie Thurston, the author about 10 years ago when she first was interviewing doctors and patients for her NY times article on chronic pain. She interviewed my doctor, Dr. Scott Fishman at UC Davis medical Center, then she interviewed me. About 5 years later, she found me again--we had moved to FL., we reconnected, talked on the phone and she told me she was writing a book and asked if she could include my story. Years went by and I had forgotten about the whole thing when about 8 months ago I received a phone call, it was Melanie letting me know she had finished writing the book and it was being sent to the publisher. She mailed a copy of the manuscript to me, I couldn't believe how well she could explain what I had felt for so many years. I truly felt, from the first chapter on, she was speaking for me, only much more eloquently! I hope lots of people read this, not just those of us in pain,,,,,,,,
    Thank you Melanie, for using your voice and talent to help promote understanding.
    And, yes, I am the Holly she refers to in the book

  6. #6
    Hi Holly, actually the book I'm referring to in this thread is a different one (Pain, the Fifth Vital Sign: The Science and Culture of How and Why we Hurt by Marni Jackson) - but I have ordered The Pain Chronicles and really look forward to reading it.

  7. #7
    Hi Bonnette,
    I read through Pain , the Fifth Vital Sign. It was mostly 'enjoyable'. Marni Jackson seems like a very nice and compassionate person. I liked her interview with Dr. Adams , and the section about meditation and heart opening exercises. I agree it is a good book and for someone who isn't in a chronic pain state, she listens well and seems to get the devastation of life with chronic pain.
    Ms. Jackson is a good writer. The book was written in 2002, just before Vioxx was taken off the market. I guess I should now read 'The Pain Chronicles' and compare the 2 books. It is hard for me because I find that the subject forcefully impinges on my life as it is. To voluntarily read about the subject is to spend more time thinking about a topic that is already robbing me of time. I need to learn how to speed read !

  8. #8
    Hi Arndog, thank you very much for sharing your impressions of the book. I know what you mean about not wanting to spend much time reading about a fact of life that is so difficult and everpresent! The Pain Chronicles covers more topics and is more current, but I don't think it's necessary or even advisable to read both books unless for some reason you feel compelled to do so - reading shouldn't add to your pain! Thank you again for letting me know your thoughts about the book.

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