Book review: A pain doctor’s guide to relief: Confronting chronic pain

Every now and then I get the chance to review a new book on chronic pain. This week I’ve had the chance to review TWO – one of them is the book Pain: A textbook for health professionals reviewed at my Healthskills blog and this one is written for people who have chronic pain and want to learn more.

The details:

This is a paperback, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, it has 231 pages, a good index and lots of references.

The book is written by Dr Steven H Richeimer, who is Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California, and also director of Pain Management at Norris Cancer Hospital, Los Angeles, and associate professor in the Depts of Anaesthesiology and Psychiatry at UCL. And he’s a very approachable and generous clinician from what I’ve found on the interwebs.

The co-author is Kathy Steligo, a freelance writer who has co-authored a number of health books on cancer.

Together these two authors have written a really helpful and balanced book on how to go about managing pain.

The book has 10 chapters covering topics such as the science of pain (how it works, all pain is not the same, the brain); chronically painful conditions such as cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches; pain medications and how they work, “mind over pain” therapies and why they work; “body over pain” therapies such as exercise and nutrition and why they work; complementary therapies and how they might work; spirituality and pain and how that influences your pain; and chapters on your family and helping yourself to be in control of your own healthcare. The final chapter is about the future of pain management and maybe if pain will be a problem of the past (no, not in the short term anyway).

What I like about this book:

It’s a very balanced book, and it doesn’t promise what isn’t available. So you won’t find outrageous claims that product X or treatment Y will “take all your pain away”. Instead, the authors summarise the state of play, critiques some popular treatments (like traction, for instance), and gives you the information to make your own decision with a good, brief summary at the end of each chapter. They write well, and don’t dumb things down, and the index and references are excellent.

There are nice quotes from people with pain discussing their thoughts on various approaches. Some excellent highlight boxes summarising topical issues. Some trivia (did you know the lengthy process involved in getting a drug to market?), and facts that are both relevant and interesting (like that men and women experience the same stimulus in quite different ways, and that women are more responsive to kappa opioids, while women who are redheads are more sensitive to some types of stimuli and need more pain relief to get the same result as her dark-haired sister).

What I like less about this book:

While this book is very informative, you need to be a reader to get through it. There’s a lot of text in here, and although there are some nice line drawings to illustrate points, overall the book is a book not a workbook. What this means is that you will get a lot of information about what works and doesn’t work, and some information about how to go about getting some of the treatments discussed, you won’t get a step-by-step “how to get on with life” workbook. So the actions you might take from this book are entirely up to you. Also, if you’re not a reader, there is a lot of reading in this book. You’d probably want to take it as a “dip into” book, reading the chapters you’re most interested in first, then coming back to those that are less interesting.

The cost of this book is reasonable, especially for those in the US (not so much for us in Australasia!), so I’d definitely think it worth purchasing if you want to get some good information on what you can do about your pain. For those living outside the US, some of the drug names, and some of the procedures described in the book may not be readily available, or they may be expensive: be aware of this, but if you do want to discuss them with your health provider, I’d suggest taking the book along with you – your health provider may like to read this book as well. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for some of our health professionals to take the time to update their knowledge, and this book could be useful.

Here’s the Amazon link
And here’s what the book looks like:


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