Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Book Review: Hjärnkoll på värk och smärta

Hjärnkoll på värk och smärta (Understanding Pains and Aches) by Martin Ingvar och Gunilla Eldh

Publisher: Natur och Kultur

Year: 2012

Category: Non-fiction: Medicine

I often read books and think “I really should recommend this to so and so, they will love it!”. Rarely do I read books and think “Everyone MUST read this book NOW"!” And even more seldom do I feel this way about a non-fiction book, because lets face it, a lot of people look at you like you are nuts when you recommend a non-fiction book to them (I am putting biographies to one side here). This book I put out facebook and tweets about saying that EVERYONE MUST READ THIS BOOK! Why do I feel this way about a rather slim non-fiction book? Well first I should tell you something about me:

Right now I start every single day in pain. I am lucky, I don’t start every day in pain, 365 days per year. In fact I had been moderately pain free since December. But about a week ago it was as if I had walked into a wall, been hit by a bus and run over by a train all at once. There wasn’t a single joint, bone or muscle in my body that did not ache. I should have know the signs were there, the stress (5 weeks left of term, grades are due and national tests are looming), the dizzy spells and the headaches, yet I was surprised when the pain hit all at once. What does this have to do with the book I just read? Well it is a book about pain management. It is written for both pain sufferers, their loved ones and those who come into contact with them, both privately and professionally. And boy do I wish more people had read it.

It is based on research, but written in a very accessible way. It goes through both the causes of chronic pain and some of the therapies that exist to deal with it. It recommends how you should prepare for a doctors visit. It also takes Swedish medical care to task. The authors talk about a situation that has become much to common in Sweden in the past few years, many doctors surgeries are staffed by locum doctor and they are different every single time you go. The doctors have very few minutes for every patient and what is important for chronic pain sufferers is conversation, that someone takes them serious. The book points out the importance of not having to tell your story every time you go to the doctor. This takes energy. Being met by a doctor who dismisses you as someone who is whiny takes energy. And when you only have a minimum of energy this is stressful.

The book points out the connection between anxiety, depression and pain. This is something I have been treated for with KBT and for me that worked to a certain degree. At least it stops me from wallowing to much. It also taught me to plan. For example this weekend. I really needed to do a deep clean of my apartment, with the fibro hitting last weekend and work being crazy and the weather bad (I needed to take the recycling to the end of the road) I had let things go. Luckily this was a four day weekend so I planned it so that I have a day to recuperate. I’m not sure I need it, but planning for it is a better idea than not. 

In many ways this book confirmed the things I already knew about my own pain and how to best manage it. I haven’t missed a day of work this year because of pain, because I can manage it and because I have understanding students, colleagues and boss. My students are fantastic in that if I tell them that I am having a “dumb” day they respect that it might take me longer to reply to them. They can be my arms and hands and write on the white board when the pain is to bad. My colleagues check in on my class if I need to lay down for a bit. My boss encouraged me to make use of the company health care. I’m lucky.

The last chapter in the book was interesting to me from a different perspective. It talks about pain management in the elderly, especially those with dementia. My mother is a geriatric nurse and I used to work at a nursing home. Here I also got some of my previous knowledge confirmed, I also learned some new things. My mum encouraged me to touch my residents. She has always pointed out the importance of human contact in caring for others. This book also emphasizes this. This is something I’ve taken with me to my teaching career. I know that there has been a lot written about how you have to be careful when touching a student, but I firmly believe that patting someone on the shoulder, or hugging a girl who is devastated because her boyfriend has broken up with her, is something that we SHOULD do. So there. Anyway back to the pain management of the elderly. The book points out that many of those who suffer from dementia might also be in pain and that this pain manifests itself as increased “dementia behavior”. The patient appears restless and disturbing, but it might actually be pain, or lack of stimulation. To me this is fascinating because I have listened to my mom preach this for years. She is a strong believer in less medication is better and that stimulation is necessary.

This book has only been published in Swedish and in some instances it is geared towards Swedish conditions, however many of the conclusions drawn are applicable in other countries too.


Copyright ©2012 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.