A bee sting on the lips was the tiny lance that set Marni Jackson off on a four-year exploration of the many ways in which we suffer. Exiled for an afternoon in the country called pain, she realized that no one had the words to describe her condition although it was as familiar as a headache. A fusion of emotion, nerve and memory, pain inspired only questions.
“Why do we still distinguish between mental pain and physical pain,” she asks, “when pain is always an emotional experience? Why is pain so poorly understood, especially in a century of self-scrutiny? Hasn’t anyone noticed the embarrassing fact that science is about to clone a human being but still can’t cure the pain of a bad back?” North Americans spend $24 billion a year on pain relief while chronic pain is on the rise. If pain is the reason why most people visit the doctor, why are most doctors so bad at addressing the problem of suffering?
Pain: The Fifth Vital Sign dives back into the history of pain and forward into the possibilities of pain genetics, bringing us stories of both people in pain and the pain pioneers: eccentrics and artists, wrestlers and writers, ministers and mothers, psychologists and philosophers, nurses and doctors. Marni Jackson has created a definitive, heartfelt, funny and beguiling portrait of a condition we can’t live with — and can’t live without.