"Pain - the Fifth Vital Sign" - Review

by Marni Jackson

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Ranking 4.5 stars out of 5

Throughout the history of medicine, quantifying pain has been an issue. How do we explain "how much" pain we're experiencing in a way that's universally understood? As headache and Migraine patients we can absolutely relate. Jackson explores pain as the "Fifth Vital Sign," as measurable as temperature, blood pressure, heart beat, and respiration.

A burning question...

"But how has it come about that we spend $24 billion a year in North America on Tylenol, Advil, and the rest, and yet chronic pain is on the rise? Why is it that medicine can master intrauterine surgery but it can't help people with bad backs or migraines? Pain is the number one reason why people go to the doctor's office and the number one reason they come away disappointed."

Not just another book about pain...

"Pain - the Fifth Vital Sign" is not...

  • too technical or too simplified
  • about specific pain treatments
  • a book that promises to tell you how to "cure" yourself. 

This book is...

  • easy and enjoyable to read
  • well researched
  • reasonable, logical, thought provoking
  • written by someone who understands pain and the people affected by it.

Selected quotes from "Pain - the Fifth Vital Sign"

  • "...pain lacks a language of its own and mus recruit metaphors or similes."
  • "The distinction between 'mental pain' and 'physical pain' has led to a punishing skepticism about 'real' pain versus 'invented' pain."
  • "Above all, pain is in the brain..."
  • "My approach is, I'm not the healer. I'm the partner. The power to heal has to come from within, or it's hopeless. The person who says, 'Help me cope with my pain' is very different from the person who says, 'Cure me.'"
  • "In America, there has also been a recent campaign to treat pain as the fifth vital sign... Just as the four traditional vital signs, temperature, respiration, pulse, and blood pressure, must be charted, American hospitals are now obliged to assess pain in their patients too."
  • Most specialists would agree, though, that the pain conditions listed below, in no special order, would make most top ten lists.
    • Childbirth
    • Burn pain and the process of debridement
    • Shingles
    • Cancer pain
    • Cluster headaches
    • Kidney stones
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Migraine
    • Depression
    • Fibromyalgia... 

Review Summary

"Pain - the Fifth Vital Sign" is an exceptional book. It's a book that should be read by everyone affected by pain, directly or indirectly. It also needs to be read by every member of Congress as they have thus far failed to pass the promised "Patient Bill of Rights" or the National Pain Care Policy Act.


© Teri Robert, 2007.

Last updated October 5, 2007. 

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