The Pain Chronicles

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Melanie Thernstrom talks about pain throughout the ages—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging—to reveal the mysterious nature of pain itself. In The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering, she reflects on her own battle with chronic pain, discusses the latest medical research, and gives insights on coping with pain from science, history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, literature, and art.


Melanie Thernstrom

Comments [20]

@pidel from yonkers

i had accupuncture 2 x aweek fo9r over 3 years straight. it reduced my pain some what no doubt about that, however if i stopped , the pain returned in full force . the amount of time i was spending going to acupuncturist and the scheduling and commitment made it no longer worthwhile, at lest 3 hours day 2x a week. MY pain is extremely intense so a couple more meds made up the difference, and usually i put it to good use like exercise, which is great for pain relief..
i dont know why they ask for a name and post it , i thought it was only for the records. rather have wnyc post my email addy , since i habe different @ addresses for different blogs and postings.
pain cannot be meaured between people. my nerve pain and somebodys pain is way to different, i would like to get hooked up too a brain scan and slowly sstop my meds to se waht images they see.. i see someone hacksawing off my toes perpendicular or using a hand operated hedge clipperr cutting my foot in half parallel to my toes, between my 1 and 2, or 3 and 4 toes, right up the middle of the foot
it is very hard to have a discussion about pain, since everybodys is different.
i am only knowledgeably about spinal cord injury pain, mine is nerve pain, even though my injury waas t my spine, usually all my pain is in my nerve damaged foot..
i learned alot, i learned compassion.

i now understand why the homeless alcoholics have the toe section cut off their shoes. It is because of the incredible they have, the touch or the slightest pressure produces incredible pain. Since they are alcoholic, booze will hill the pain, si i always give them money for pain relief , believe tech term is diabetic neurpophy

Nov. 11 2010 01:34 AM
Moreso from Queens

Western medicine has deemed acupuncture to be nothing more than placebo. Must be a very good placebo. A gentleman I know became ill while traveling in China and had his gall bladder removed WHILE FULLY AWAKE with acupuncture as the only anesthesia. He felt no pain, and recovered very quickly. Acupuncture is based on an understanding of the human body that has not been studied in the West, so there's no way Western doctors can design a study that will properly demonstrate the efficacy or nonefficacy of acupuncture. The anti-placebo affect (we don't believe in it, therefore it can't be true) permeates Western doctors' attitudes towards Ancient Chinese Medicine. A billion Chinese people and thousands of years of practice? Just one big placebo. Hmm.

Nov. 10 2010 12:31 PM
Danielle De Pillis from Minneapolis

I suffered from chronic hip, low back and sciatic pain for many years. I was sent to every doctor imaginable. I am now an Integrative Yoga Therapist (not a doctor) and I healed my own pain in a matter of months after my training. I have been pain free this whole year. Since then I have guided many others in reducing or eliminating their chronic pain. I do find that those with some connection to the Spirit heal much more quickly than those with no spiritual connection.

Nov. 09 2010 04:00 PM

@ mike pidel - American Academy of Medical Acupuncture - check out its website for practitioners.

Nov. 09 2010 03:13 PM
Linda M. from Morris County, NJ

I suffered w/chronic pain for 16 year, and finally found relief with bio-identical hormone therapy. Dr. Sergy Dzugan is one of the world's leading experts in this field. Best money I ever spent!

Nov. 09 2010 02:52 PM

I am use what works for me, with no side effects. Hospitals seem to agree, offering inpatients energy treatments. Even Dr. Oz has energy healers in his ORs and has for at least a decade. He is not cowed by a need for validation, he uses what he sees working.

Nov. 09 2010 02:35 PM
mike pidel from yonkers

i have had chronic intractable pain for over 9 years. Mine is a type of spinal cord injury, cauda equina syndrome. Technically not part of the spinal cord, but VA and Medicare consider it i SCI , if it meets certain parameters.
Another problem with pain management docs, they listen to the salesman for these expensive medical devices. Plus the salesman and doctors bs you.
I was told that a spinal cord stimulator would knock down the pain and had a above 80% success ratio.
I knew the salesman would try and spin the outcome, so after about 10 programmings. I called up Boston scientific to inform them the scs was a failure. They told me they do not track success or failure.
A lot of bs out there.

Nov. 09 2010 01:03 PM
Dan from Morristown, NJ

For a good analysis about acupuncture see this:

In short, the best thing for pain is to see a real pain specialist.

Nov. 09 2010 12:38 PM
Ginny Rachmani from Manhattan

As a psychotherapist specializing in pain control, I want to contribute that this is the most comprehensive book I've encountered. However, an individual's experience of chronic physical or emotional pain is always unique. Understanding the psychological underpinnings of pain can be extraordinarily helpfu.

Nov. 09 2010 12:38 PM

It's high time we recognized that we are outside of the traditional western medical box talking about acupuncture - the measurements need to different, too. Double blind studies are for drugs, not for subtle energy treatments. Apples and oranges. Different realms. Also for something that studies can't confirm works it's pretty interesting that Medical schools like Stanford and UCLA offer programs teaching Chinese Medicine to MDs. Let's joint the 21st century and recognize the milennia that went before. Your guest should also check out body-based things like (yes, PT) TAT, EFT or Eden Energy Medicine. Who cares what specialists think if these modalities work and theirs don't?

Nov. 09 2010 12:36 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I don't know of anything in Jewish thought that says pain comes from God. So is it really "Judeo-Christian" thought that says this, or just Christian thought?

Nov. 09 2010 12:36 PM
Connie from NJ

When I was a child I got bad headaches. I was sometimes able to 'take the pain out' of them, for short periods of time, by thinking of the feeling in a neutral way, taking the value judgement out of the pain, in a way. It took a lot of concentration, and I haven't tried it as an adult.

Nov. 09 2010 12:33 PM
Peter Breitholtz from Albert Lea MN

Dr. Michael David Juul Ulrich is my Mayo doctor and like David Frum is Canadien and I love him for the record and I will ask him for some pain relief. I am one of those poor people with substance abuse history afraid to ask for pain killers and I'm in pain...but a little less listening to Melanie.

Nov. 09 2010 12:31 PM

What about the doctor in the NY Times mag who wrote how she wrote off eastern medicine until she saw a woman she saw who she would swear she couldnt get pregnant but then did after accupuncture?

Nov. 09 2010 12:30 PM

Could she please define racial lines if she is implying there is biological differences? Or is she saying it is a social conditioning?

Nov. 09 2010 12:26 PM
Peter Breitholtz from Albert Lea MN

i'm guessing melanie didn't drink the ancient kool aid

Nov. 09 2010 12:24 PM
Peter Breitholtz from Albert Lea MN

leonard would you just let the guest keep talking...every syllable is easing my pain at the moment...uhhhhhhh

Nov. 09 2010 12:21 PM

Can she speak to how acupuncture can tame pain?

I've had chronic lower back pain for 2 decades which sometimes makes it impossible for me to stand up straight. Somehow acupuncture can basically turn off the pain and restore my full range of motion and the effects last for years.

Is there any information about how that works?

Nov. 09 2010 12:20 PM
Sophia from Yonkers, NY

Has the guest researched prayer as a method of removing or reducing pain?

Nov. 09 2010 12:15 PM
Robin from Queens

I'd like to know if the guest can speak briefly to C.S. Lewis' approach to human pain & suffering in his book The Problem of Pain, and how pain (any kind) figures into the context of how to live our lives.

Nov. 09 2010 11:17 AM

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