Chronic Pain’s Shifting Role in our Society’s “Theaters of Compassion”

Pain: A Political History

In America, from the 1950’s forward, pain, and specifically chronic pain, has become a “political football” and “the Trojan Horse” according to author Keith Wailoo (out of Princeton University’s Wilson [Woodrow] School of Public and International Affairs).

Pain, the disability of it, the medications involved in addressing it, the high suicide rates associated with it, along with many other aspects of the condition are presented by Keith Waterloo in his origin look at pain- focusing on how government, politics and the courts have radically impacted the way society understands, addresses and treats the condition. For those living in chronic pain the changing attitudes in regards to, approaches towards and services available for those living with chronic pain have been dramatically affected by these American societal forces.

“Tracing the development of pain theories in politics, medicine, law, and society, and battles over the morality and economics of relief…

  Keith Wailoo points to a tension at the heart of the conservative-liberal divide.

Beginning with the post–World War II emergence of a pain relief economy in response to concerns about recovering soldiers, Wailoo explores the 1960s rise of an expansive liberal pain standard, along with the emerging conviction that subjective pain was real, disabling, and compensable.

These concepts were attacked during the Reagan era of the 1980s, when a conservative political backlash led to decreasing disability aid, the growing role of the courts as arbiters in the liberal-conservative struggle to define pain” and the birth of the idea of chronic pain as “learned helplessness.”

“Physicians and social scientists are aware that individual pain is complex and elusive—an aggregate of physiology, cultural context, and idiosyncrasy. Wailoo has added a significant analytic dimension to this understanding of pain by incorporating the domains of ideology and politics as they are reflected in policy. A highly original and persuasively argued contribution by one of America’s most prominent historians of medicine and society, Pain will attract a wide and thoughtful readership.”
— Charles E. Rosenberg, Harvard University

If you have ever experienced and wondered about other’s critical judgement (as opposed to compassion) in respect to your condition or a Doctor’s reluctance to help you or why prescription pain medications are becoming so challenging to get this is a powerful book that will help you tease out the underlying politics at play. As we know, you are your own best advocate and being better informed can only help.


Author: ChronicPainDailyReflections

I manage a web-site, Chronic Pain Daily, created for and in support of those living in chronic pain. The site helps with the day-to-day spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of those with constant pain, whatever its source.