By Ed Coghlan
Dr. David Nagel is a New Hampshire pain physician whose important new book on pain: Needless Suffering: How Society Fails Those with Chronic Pain is being released this week. The National Pain Report, which had a chance to read an advance copy of the book (and liked it), interviewed Dr. Nagel on what the pain community (and others) should get out of the book. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
National Pain Report: What should patients get out of this book?
Dr. Nagel: “I should first say what this book is not about. It is not about the medical treatment of pain. I don’t outline miraculous new therapies or breakthroughs. There are plenty of books that do that. My goal is to address the problem of chronic pain from a social perspective, and I hope the reader will come to understand how common the problem of chronic pain is. I hope the reader will change their perception of the pain sufferer from someone with a perceived character flaw to an often heroic individual in need or our help. I also stress that we as providers must be honest about what we can really offer those who suffer, and I hope the reader will learn as much about our limitations as what we can offer.
With that as a background, what do I wish the patient to get out of this book? I first want the patient to know they are not alone. I want to find ways to empower them. They do not need to be silent. I always include the patient’s family as part of the patient. We know in rehabilitation medicine that the ability of the patient to adapt is dependent on the quality of the support structure around them, and the family is the most important aspect of this. So, my book is addressed on behalf of the family as well.
At the same time, I want the patient to be realistic. While it may be reasonable to hope for a better future, one needs also to best maximize function bio-psycho-socially within their current limitations. We do not have a “magic bullet” for chronic pain. That does not mean one should not search for a solution for her pain. I have learned from many patients that when their search for a cure becomes all encompassing, to the effect they neglect the rest of their lives, then they and all around them suffer needlessly. I have had many patients tell me they only found meaning in their lives when they found a way to put their pain to the side and focus on their residual abilities. That is not to suggest there is anything easy about doing that. I hope my book will give them courage to look to an altered future, rather than fixated on an unrealistic past.
Are you available to come and speak to groups?
Most definitely. I admit I am technologically challenged. I prefer face to face contact. I learn from those I speak to, and that is what I desire. I also wish to travel out of my comfort zone, because that is where I learn the most. Whether you think you agree with me or not, I would love to come talk with you or your group. At the very beginning of the book I state that I would be disappointed if the reader agrees with everything I say, so, let’s talk. I can be reached at NeedlessSuffering@yahoo.com.