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Chronic Pain and the Family

Chronic Pain and the Family

A New Guide

Julie K. Silver, M.D.

ISBN 9780674016668

Publication date: 10/25/2004

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting as many as 48 million people in this country alone. It can demoralize and depress both patient and family, especially when there is no effective pain control and no hope for relief. Improperly managed, chronic pain can lead to substance abuse (usually painkillers) and to acute psychological and emotional distress. Pain begets stress and stress begets pain in a wretched downward spiral.

Silver reviews the causes and characteristics of chronic pain and explores its impact on individual family relationships and on the extended family, covering such issues as employment, parenting, childbearing and inheritance, and emotional health. Silver treats aspects of chronic pain not covered in a typical office visit: how men and women differ in their experience of chronic pain, the effect of chronic pain on a toddler's behavior or an older child's performance in school, the risks of dependence on and addiction to pain medications, and practical ways for relatives beyond the immediate family circle to offer help and support to the person in pain.


  • In this latest entry in Harvard University's useful series of concise guides for families aiding sick members, Silver examines how family relationships can be affected by chronic pain: the impact on parents of suffering children, and on children of suffering parents, the role of extended family, the effect on intimacy and sexual activity, and more. Silver clearly discusses medication and other treatments as well, including alternative medicine. Useful sidebars deal with specific issues: one suggests ways to eliminate unhelpful chronic pain behaviors that can alienate friends; another gives a list of pain medications associated with sexual dysfunction. Silver's advice is wise and sensible, based on her own years of practice with chronic pain patients.

    —Publishers Weekly


  • Julie K. Silver, M.D., is Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Strategic Initiatives in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School and Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. She is the author of Post-Polio Syndrome: A Guide for Polio Survivors and Their Families.

Book Details

  • 176 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press