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Plotting a Pain Scale

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Pain is a fundamental part of life, and often a very lonely part. Doctors want to understand their patients' pain, and we all want to understand the suffering of our loved ones. But pinning down another person's hurt is a slippery business. Is your relentless lower back pain more or less unbearable than my crushing headache? Problem is, pain is maddeningly subjective.

Producer Tim Howard introduces us to three attempts to put a number on pain in the hopes that we can truly understand another's suffering.
We begin with entomologist Justin Schmidt's globe-trotting adventure to plot the relative nastiness of insect bites and stings. Then, Paula Michaels, a professor in the History of Medicine at the University of Iowa, brings us back to 1948, to a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided attempt to demystify the pain of childbirth. And we end with a very modern, very personal struggle as non-fiction writer Eula Biss tries to rate her own chronic pain.

Produced by:

Tim Howard

Comments [2]

This is an hysterically funny/accurate depiction of a pain scale.

Sep. 03 2013 10:04 PM
Katherine Keena from savannah, ga

I was fascinated with your discussion of pain, especially in regards to childbirth. I feel like I have a high pain threshold. Iwas a childhood migraine sufferer, and when i compare notes, I know i bore lots of pain.
And no denying it, even in an easy delivery, labor is hard painful work.
But the measurement that stunned me was the so callled "urge to push". Urge seems like a word connotating some control...but what I experienced was an overwhelming muscular action in my body that I had no contol over. It was like an alien power took over my body.....urge such an understated word

Sep. 02 2013 07:34 PM

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