Medicine: Pain: Search for Understanding and Relief

VIRTUALLY every man has experienced pain and therefore knows just how it feels. But he cannot tell anybody else what it is really like. Pain cannot even be precisely defined. Lay and medical dictionaries alike offer essentially circular definitions of it as hurt, distress or suffering—pain is pain. Half the medical textbooks say little about it, except for extreme and uncommon forms, and doctors learn correspondingly little about it in medical school. The great British physiologist Sir Charles Sherrington described pain as "the psychical adjunct of an imperative protective reflex." More simply, pain...

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