The Hurt Grokker

“For scientists, pain has long presented an intractable problem: it is a physiological process, just like breathing or digestion, and yet it is inherently, stubbornly subjective—only you feel your pain. It is also a notoriously hard experience to convey accurately to others. 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.'” So we’re left with that seemingly arbitrary 0-10 pain scale or asked to select among a series of “cheerful and grimacing faces.” But sadly, pain remains a mystery. I have no idea what you’re feeling and you have no way to really describe it in a way I’ll understand. That might be even more true for sufferers of chronic pain. “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.” But there’s hope that this permanence may not be forever. The New Yorker’s Nicola Twilley takes you to the cutting (and burning, and poking, and freezing, and pinching) edge of The Neuroscience of Pain.

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