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Exploring the mystery of pain

If I had to live with chronic pain, I'd be a pain to live with.

I'm a lap swimmer. A few years ago, I developed a pain in my neck (yes, an actual, cliched pain in the neck). It didn't stop there: It radiated down my arm and moved from my arm to my head like a brushfire. I became totally consumed by the thought of pain, and the longer it lasted the more compulsively I thought about it. I began to wonder if I'd ever be pain free again. Through it all I developed a great sympathy for anyone who has to face chronic physical pain in their daily life.

For me, there weren't any particular good medical solutions or relief. I wasn't interested in pain meds so I didn't go that route. Essentially, I toughed it out using intense massage therapy and switching to a swimmers snorkel so I wouldn't have to turn my neck each time I gasped for air. I also started vigorously stretching my upper body after every workout. The pain soon vanished.

The memory of that pain is stamped in my brain, and I've wanted to revisit the mystery of pain in a podcast ever since that time. I came across a very cool TED lecture by Stanford Medicine's Elliot Krane, MD, director of pain management services at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and saw that - no surprise with a subject like pain - it's been viewed nearly 700,00 times.

When I spoke to Dr. Krane I began with a simple question: What is pain? Listen in and you'll find out not only that answer but also how pain still perplexes him - even though he has researched and treated it since the 80s.

(And if you want more about pain, go back to a 2011 podcast in which I interviewed Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, another of Stanford Medicine's amazing physician-scientists focused on pain. He treats adult patients.)

Previously: More progress in the quest for a “painometer”, A call to fight chronic-pain epidemic, Relieving Pain in America: A new report from the Institute of Medicine, Elliot Krane discusses the mystery of chronic pain, Stanford’s Sean Mackey discusses recent advances in pain research and treatment and Oh what a pain
Photo by ashleigh290

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