Medicine: Oh, My Aching Back

When a patient walks into a doctor's office with the vague complaint, "I've got a pain in my back," the success or failure of medical treatment often depends on the doctor's first reaction. If he begins by looking past the patient, ignoring his pain and trying to find an interesting disease process, it is probably the fault of his early training. Most medical textbooks are little better than elaborate descriptions of diseases; they consider the patient only incidentally as a vehicle of disease, and his pain only as an aid in diagnosis (and not a very good one at that).

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