What continuing chronic pain is really like

The stories of recovery from chronic pain in Doidge’s book are in dramatic contrast with the stories in another book, “The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain is Really Like and Why it Matters to Each of Us,” by Lynn Webster, M.D. Here a compassionate and highly trained pain specialist tells stories of patients who have been treated with painkillers and the loving support of friends and family (while it lasts). One dramatic story starts with a man with a good job, who is happily married to a very loving wife. The chronic pain he experiences from an accident launches the man into a downward spiral. This ultimately ends with abandonment by his wife and children and his suicide. Even the most positive stories in the book end with “acceptance with resilience,” that is, an acceptance that the pain will never go away, but the resilience to lead the most normal life possible with the pain.

There is a growing understanding that long term opioid use for chronic pain can be problematic because of adverse side effects and tolerance [Crow, JM]. New opioids and new spinal stimulators are in development that may be better alternatives for existing choices [Crow, JM]. Treating pain as a tissue issue is especially useful in the treatment of acute pain to prevent chronic pain from ever developing, but if it does develop, the use of opioids can be counterproductive because they can increase sensitization: make the brain problem worse.

If you are worn down, perhaps by years of chronic pain, and feel that the best you can do is to passively accept help from painkillers and the loving support of friends and family, then the stories in this book may help you generate the energy and commitment you need to work on the brain problem of your chronic pain.