Review: The Painful Truth by Lynn R Webster


Pain is an unbidden guest, humanity’s shadow companion down through the ages. It is a despoiler of dreams and a thief. Chronic pain can appear suddenly in a person’s life, changing it forever. Dr. Lynn R. Webster puts a face on chronic pain through the lives of his patients, and provides an intimate view of what it is like to live with it. The Painful Truth will open your eyes to the world of those who are stigmatized and marginalized by our society and healthcare system. Yet the new book offers hope and a path forward for those willing to engage in a crusade against the human race’s primal enemy–pain.

Published by Webster Media.

An eARC of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


One day a young grandchild asked [Marsha] to give him a piggyback ride.

“I’m sorry, honey, I just can’t,” she apologised.

“Why not, Grandma?  You used to give piggyback rides.”

The above quote, from The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain is Really Like and Why it Matters to Each of Us, sums up the effect that developing chronic pain can have on an individual.  One day a grandmother is able to give her young grandchildren piggyback rides, and then next her pain makes it impossible.

The Painful Truth is an important book which covers many aspects of chronic pain, mostly by presenting individual accounts of patients treated by author Lynn R. Webster (all are based in the United States, and medications mentioned are those available in the US; many of the patients had been seen by many medical professionals before they saw Webster).  These accounts are varied in terms of causes of the chronic pain – from accidents, spinal surgery and the development of chronic regional pain syndrome – but almost all of them describe a “before” and “after”.  Once, the patients had a life free from chronic pain, and after, their lives were completely changed.

Much of the discussion of these cases naturally involves medication and the many ways in which chronic pain is treated.  The thinking around chronic pain treatment has changed – at one time, it was thought that opiates could be given in ever-increasing doses as patients developed tolerance to the dose they were on.  It’s unsurprising that so many chronic pain patients – including many of the patients included in this book – developed opiate addictions.

Webster talks a lot about how these types of patients need to be treated, including some new experimental treatments, and the use of things like implanted pain medication pumps and anticonvulsants.  Webster also talks a lot about the mindset that patients can take to help living with chronic pain – about learning that the pain is always going to be part of their lives, and then moving on to figure out how to make the best of their situation.

There is no shying away from the darker side of chronic pain, either.  Webster talks about patients whose pain and/or opiate addiction has resulted in divorce and suicide.  There is discussion about how some patients are seen as addicts, and how others struggle to get the medication they need, either because doctors won’t prescribe it, or pharmacies won’t fill it for fear of litigation.

This book emphasises the need for better ways to deal with chronic pain and better attitudes by medical professionals towards patients with chronic pain.  If you deal with chronic pain yourself or know someone who does, this is worthwhile reading.


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