Customer Reviews

3 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pain: prayers to painkillers, 2 July 2014
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The central theme running through this book is that "pain does not arise naturally from physiological processes, but in negotiation with social worlds". Thus, pain-events are embedded in the patient's life and can only be understood, and through that understanding pain alleviated, by interpreting the "interpersonal relationships and environmental interactions between the `person-in-pain' and the people around him or her". This thesis is examined in considerable detail from the earliest times to today, starting with a chapter on how people-in-pain use metaphors to describe their condition and how this influences pain narratives, whose importance as a diagnostic tool has waxed and waned over the centuries. Similarly, there is a chapter about how physical expressions of pain, such as facial gestures, have fallen in and out of favour as useful aids to diagnosis, and another on the role of sympathy, both from friends and doctors.

A major influence in understanding and treating pain has historically been religion. In earlier centuries, and still today for many people, it was widely believed that pain was sent by God to test the faith of believers and to remind them that they were essentially sinful creatures. Enduring pain in this life would guarantee a pain-free existence in the afterlife. This belief was severely shaken by the discovery of analgesics and anesthetics. No longer did patients have to bear the distressing effects of long-term pain, or the brutal horrors of operations. The very role of pain was questioned. For example, if it was a warning sign that something was wrong, why did it have to continue long after its `usefulness' was established?

The final chapter is a discussion of modern pain relief and why, despite its effectiveness, many people-in-pain still suffer unnecessarily. The reasons often have their source deep in historical beliefs about the moral benefits of pain, as well as racial, social and sexual stereotyping, although rarely stated explicitly. These lead to women ("women can bear pain better than men"), working class patients ("the working class are less sensitive than higher classes") and others often receiving less pain relief than men and the more articulate members of society. History has shown that it will be difficult to overcome these prejudices.

We all experience pain at some time in our lives, and so this book has an intrinsic interest. It is well written in an academic, but far from dry, style but it is not always a comfortable read. Although not about the science of pain, about which there is still much to be understood, it explains well the phenomenon in an historical and social context, although there are sometimes a little too many similar examples to make a point. It is meticulously researched, with over 1000 references cited and listed in the Notes. A criticism I would make about the latter, which is common to many recent books that have an academic origin, but are written for the general reader, is whether more than 100 printed pages, close to a third of the book, should be devoted to listing all the references, which will rarely be followed up even if they could be located. A website for the book should be the place for these, as some books now do.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

5.0 out of 5 stars The book is not a medical history as such but an all-encompassing elucidation of the history of the interpretation of experience, 11 Aug 2014
The evocation of the experience of pain is the fulcrum of the lever used by sufferers, carers, and physicians to understand the phenomenon of pain.

How pain is perceived by these parties is a product of the expressions used to describe pain, the etymology of which is driven by the contemporary psychosocial mores unique to each milieu.

This book employs uncompromisingly academic reasoning to explore these mores and asks what pain is? Does it exist as an external entity? Or is it endogenous? For both the sufferer and the observer the question arises: are the perceptions of- and the associated attitudes to pain unavoidably subjective?

An etymological approach to the description of pain was an unexpected inception - but then again why should it be? The words, analogies and metaphors that were used constitute the historical signposts that describe and reflect contemporary understanding of physiology and of developments in society.

But it is not only the etymology of the words used to communicate the experience of pain “as an event” that is explored in Professor Bourke’s book, but also the irrepressible need to communicate the experience of pain. The corollary of which is the changing perception by the physician as to how much of a free-flowing pain narrative really needs to be expropriated for diagnosis and treatment to be optimised; and this perception is continually changing as “scientific” diagnostic procedures evolve.

The book is not a medical history as such but an all-encompassing elucidation of the history of the interpretation of experience of pain. It explores the dynamic interconnections between language and culture that colours the perception of the sensation of pain and the cognition that ensues.

The discursive discourse is replete with historical quotations from philosophers, physicians and from people in pain. The influence of the ubiquitous effects of religious belief and the perceived role of sin in pain, and the subsequent secular backlash, are not omitted.

The perception of pain as an essential compass for diagnosis is examined alongside the gradual diminution of the importance of the pain narrative as a diagnostic tool. A fascinating proposal is floated that the role of the pain narrative is shrinking and may be eliciting less trust by the physician. Starting from the time when sympathy was all that a physician could offer, the book pans to the present day where MRI scans, drugs, or surgery provide diagnosis and effective treatment, and where the psycho-therapeutic effect of a sympathetic demeanour, in response to an effusive narrative of pain may be reduced.

The book is exhaustively annotated and offers a large bibliography.

Although my first exploration of the unexpected parameters of the experience of pain was enthralling, I intend immediately re-reading the book in the expectation that the experience will be enriched from the perspective gained from my first excursion through this intriguing Story of Pain.

Jim Young
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars was pleased to receive as a birthday present, 18 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My son, as surgeon, was pleased to receive as a birthday present. He too had heard the BBC programme and was surprised to receive the book within a few days of listening to the BBC.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Only search this product's reviews