Friday, April 21, 2017


Wired has a piece on pain:
Pain has always been the price of being alive, but according to the National Institutes of Health, more than one in 10 American adults say that some part of their body hurts some or all of the time. That’s more than 25 million people. In study after study, more middle-aged Americans than ever before say they suffer from chronic pain. Because of that pain, more of them than ever before say they have trouble walking a quarter mile or climbing stairs. More say they have trouble spending time with friends. More say they can no longer work.
IF YOU BURN yourself on a stove, it hurts. More specifically, the nerve cells in your hand sense the heat and send pain signals to your spinal cord. The signal then travels up to the brain, which instructs you to howl with pain or issue the appropriate profanity. This is what’s known as acute pain. It can stab or pinch or shock, hurting like hell and telling us to stop doing what we are doing, take care of ourselves, get medicine, get help. The medical community knows how to treat most acute pain. Temporary prescriptions for opioids dull the sting from surgical incisions; anti-inflammatories can mask the discomfort of a sprain. Acute pain persists, but it also goes away. Acute pain is also easier to empathize with: Show someone an image of a pair of scissors cutting a hand, and the observer’s brain will react as much as if their own hand were being pinched.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is a phantom: an enduring ache, a tenderness that does not turn off. It can be inflammatory (brought on by diseases like arthritis) or neuropathic (affecting the nerves, as in some cases of shingles, diabetes, or chemotherapy treatments). Some chronic pain never even traces back to a coherent cause, which makes it that much harder to understand. Give us broken bones, burn marks, blood—in the absence of proof (or personal experience), the hidden pain of others is easy to dismiss.
It's been an odd week for me.I missed work on Wednesday. Call it a "mental health day" I was in bed. Depression doesn't care. Anyway, check out End Pain Forever: How a single gene could become a volume knob for human suffering, by Erika Hayasaki.

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