Book Review- Explain Pain by David S. Butler and G. Lorimer Moseley Noigroup Publications, Adelaide, 2003

Book review on Explain Pain

David S. Butler and G. Lorimer Moseley Noigroup Publications, Adelaide, 2003.

A Book for Chronic Pain Suffers

“No-one really wants pain”

This is the opening statement of this fascinating book about chronic pain. Butler and Moseley have written a book that can be picked up and read by almost anyone, but which contains solid scientific facts and the latest research on the problem of Chronic Pain.

The premise of the book is that if we can understand what chronic pain is, perhaps it will have less of a hold over us, and will eventually decrease. The authors want us to understand the physiology of pain, and to lose our fear of pain.

What can we learn from the book?

  1. Pain is good and normal! It is an essential part of the body’s protection mechanism. It alerts us to danger. It helps us to avoid tissue damage. When there is a perceived threat, chemicals are released and messages are sent to the brain, which are interpreted as pain. We are then prompted to remove ourselves from the threat. This is good!
  2. Our nerves and brain respond and change under the influence of chronic pain.

    • The nerves in the body that sense danger become more sensitized.
    • The brain releases chemicals that further sensitize the nervous system and spinal cord.
    • Chemicals that are produced when we are stressed (cortisol) or afraid, angry or anxious (adrenalin) can then cause the pain sensors to trigger even when there is no danger to the tissues. So our emotions and state of mind can impact our pain.

In the words of the author, the brain is being told that there is more danger at the tissues than there really is. As a result, the brain becomes quicker to activate a pain response, and actual tissue damage plays a much smaller roll in the pain picture. The pain is real, but the threat to the body may not be.

Ongoing pain in the body

The book then describes how understanding this change in how the body responds to ongoing pain can help the person to become less fearful of their pain, to understand why there pain is so easy to activate, and to take control of their pain.

The final section of the book introduces practical ideas and exercises to help regain control over pain.

This book is easy to read, quirky, and full of real research about pain, and presented in an interesting illustrative style. It is a book I would recommend for patients and therapists alike dealing with chronic pain.