SCIENCES

Understanding Pain: Exploring the Perception of Pain

. 2012. 192p. 978-0-26201-804-3. 24.95.
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Cervero (anesthesia, McGill Univ., Montreal) discusses how and why we experience pain and what can be done about it. After briefly explaining the history of how pain has been defined and interpreted since ancient times, he discusses types of pain, ways of measuring it, how pain is generated and processed through the brain and nervous system, how people perceive and experience pain, and the past and future of treatment. Though his book is more medical text than manifesto, Cervero advocates for pain to be treated “as a disease in its own right” and describes pain treatment as “a fundamental human right.” He discusses functional pain syndromes (that is, pain with no identifiable physical cause, including fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome) without being dismissive. ­
VERDICT Cervero condenses a wealth of information into a succinct yet comprehensive summary of what is known about the physiological and psychological aspects of pain. Lay readers may struggle with the academic writing style and terminology, but those who persevere will learn much about the universal human experience that is pain.
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