The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom
Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering

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The book has a patchwork quilt structure: More than 100 small captioned patches (or dispatches), organized into five parts and threaded with personal narrative. This invites differently motivated readers to skip or skim.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

Each of us will know physical pain in our lives, but none of us knows when it will come or how long it will stay. Today as much as 10 percent of the population of the United States suffers from chronic pain. It is more widespread, misdiagnosed, and undertreated than any major disease. While recent research has shown that pain produces pathological changes to the brain and spinal cord, many doctors and patients still labor under misguided cultural notions and outdated scientific dogmas that prevent proper treatment, to devastating effect.

In The Pain Chronicles, a singular and deeply humane work, Melanie Thernstrom traces conceptions of pain throughout the ages—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging—to reveal the elusive, mysterious nature of pain itself. Interweaving first-person reflections on her own battle with chronic pain, incisive reportage from leading-edge pain clinics and medical research, and insights from a wide range of disciplines—science, history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, literature, and art—Thernstrom shows that when dealing with pain we are neither as advanced as we imagine nor as helpless as we may fear.

Both a personal meditation and an intellectual exploration, The Pain Chronicles illuminates and makes sense of the all-too-human experience of pain—and confronts with extraordinary grace and empathy its peculiar traits, its harrowing effects, and its various antidotes.

 

About Melanie Thernstrom

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Melanie Thernstrom is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and the author of The Dead Girl and Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder.
 
Published August 17, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 378 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Helen Epstein on Oct 06 2010

The book has a patchwork quilt structure: More than 100 small captioned patches (or dispatches), organized into five parts and threaded with personal narrative. This invites differently motivated readers to skip or skim.

Read Full Review of The Pain Chronicles: Cures, M... | See more reviews from National Post arts

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