Open Book

Open Book

It’s All in Your Head? A Primer on Chronic Pain

By Molly Layton

September/October 2022

The Song of Our Scars

By Haider Warraich

New York, NY, Basic Books

Recently, I was driving in the massive Texas sun to the Austin YMCA, settling into the middle of a radio interview with some guy who clearly knew a lot about pain. I go to the Y every day because swimming laps staves off the trickster jabs of sciatica that would otherwise dominate my day. As the radio guy was discussing the power of placebos, I was pulling into a parking space next to a thick and weedy slough filled with a stand of irrepressibly purple spiderwort, not at all intimidated by the unremitting sun.

I already knew that a “fake” pill can be just as or more effective than a “real” pill when they test the efficacy of new drugs. But get this: a placebo, a fake pill, retains much or even more of its power even when patients know they’re taking a placebo. What special mojo is that? It turns out that the secret ingredient in a good placebo is the care and attention of the treating doctor—or acupuncturist or anesthesiologist or physical therapist or nurse practitioner or mother. That caring, empathic person, I’d add, might be a psychotherapist seeing a client who’s stuck in a labyrinth with the life-eating Minotaur of chronic pain. Psychotherapists, not surprisingly, will have a crucial role in our growing knowledge of the psychology of chronic pain.

The guy on the radio was Haider Warraich, a physician educated in his native…

Already have an account linked to your magazine subscription? Log in now to continue reading this article.

(Need help? Click here or contact us to ask a question.)

Not currently a subscriber? Subscribe Today to read the rest of this article!

Previous: Point of View

Read 251 times
Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *