Summary of “The Neuroscience of Pain”

Virginia Woolf bemoaned the fact that “The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.” Elaine Scarry, in the 1985 book “The Body in Pain,” wrote, “Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it.”
The history of pain research is full of ingenious, largely failed attempts to measure pain.
The 2014 edition of the textbook “Nursing: A Concept-Based Approach to Learning” warned practitioners that Native Americans “May pick a sacred number when asked to rate pain,” and that the validity of self-reports will likely be affected by the fact that Jewish people “Believe that pain must be shared” and black people “Believe suffering and pain are inevitable.” Last year, the book’s publisher, Pearson, announced that it would remove the offending passage from future editions, but biases remain common, and study after study has shown shocking disparities in pain treatment.
At the same time, research identifying the regions most crucial to the experience of pain has inadvertently pointed the way to the creation of artificial pain purely through targeted neurostimulation.
Chronic pain is often defined, somewhat misleadingly, as “Pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing.” In reality, once you’ve “Gone chronic,” as Tracey puts it, pain is the disease, rather than a symptom.
Until recently, chronic pain was thought of merely as prolonged “Normal” pain.
Tracey told me that it seems we may all be predisposed by our brain stems to feel pain more acutely or less, but that in chronic-pain patients it’s as if the volume knob of pain were turned all the way up and jammed there permanently.
Studies of twins suggest that our pain response is, in part, heritable, but there are close correlations between chronic pain and many other factors-gender, age, stress, poverty, and depression.

The orginal article.