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Book Review - Healing Pain, by Dr. Ann Berger

Share Tea With the Doctor

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By

Updated July 30, 2007

I can only imagine what it must be like to share tea with my doctor. I think of how amazing it would be to be in the presence of a medical professional who does not ignore the emotional or spiritual aspects of my pain, nor its extenuating life circumstances -- to spend time with a person who is equally versed in, as well as committed to, the healing of the technical aspects of my pain as they are the nature of my suffering. Dr. Ann Berger is such a doctor. Her book, Healing Pain, is an opportunity for a virtual visit.

Self-Assessment

A sizable portion of Berger's book is made up of self-assessment quizzes. They start with questions similar to what a doctor would ask: "Where does it hurt?", "What does it feel like?", etc. But soon, the questions progress into deeper caverns. For example:
  • Helping readers to see connections between their habitual response to pain and that of their family members
  • Examining the role faith and/or belief have on outlook for the future
  • Looking at roles played and how they have changed since the onset of the pain
  • Evaluating the people who provide the main source of support and the degree to which they are "trustworthy"
The self-assessments consist of questions that Dr. Berger would ask the reader if she or he were sitting face-to-face with her for an appointment. Berger has "developed an approach that helps patients examine who they are." Her quizzes are key tools for clarifying the reader's personal history with pain and for healing the pain by taking "life affirming steps."

The self-assessment quizzes are interspersed throughout the book in a way that's relevant to the content presented.

Keeping Track - Communicating with Medical Professionals

Healing Pain by Dr. Ann Berger

Healing Pain by Dr. Ann Berger

(c) Dr. Ann Berger
The author offers a number of logs to help keep track of pain and medication. The logs come with instructions on how best to fill them out. The purpose of the logs is to help readers gather the most accurate information regarding their chronic pain condition so that they are well-prepared to speak with members of their pain management team. Berger asserts that doing this will help patients get the best possible care.

A Promise from Dr. Berger

Dr. Berger acknowledges that chronic pain makes you more sensitive to pain rather than adaptive to it. Regardless, she assures her readers that following the guidelines in the book will bring about healing. In my opinion, the reason for this is that Berger distinguishes between suffering and physical pain, understanding and treating each with expertise and compassion. She discusses such issues as how to handle relationships in the presence of chronic pain. Using anecdotes, she invites us into her personal world to see how patients have shaped her understanding of optimism, spirituality, pain and relationships. She gives us the "other side" of doctors, acknowledging that she thinks the communication between doctors and patients is distant and that "you can't quantify agony."

A Unique Mix of Heart and Competence

Healing Pain is an easy read, but the content is powerful and can penetrate deeply. It was clear to me from reading the book that, rather than speaking from a protected place behind her title of MD, Dr. Berger comes from a unique mixture of heart and competence. I especially enjoyed her stories of how she (graciously yet effectively) challenges her colleagues and staff to put more of their true selves into their work. I recommend the book heartily because it offers practical information on many aspects of the pain puzzle:
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