The Pain Detective by Hillel Finestone The Pain Detective by Hillel Finestone The Pain Detective by Hillel Finestone

..."The Pain Detective" is a fascinating voyage into people's lives, their pains, physical and emotional...

+ Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., Princeton University

Boyfriends, heartaches, backaches?

When a patient's back hurts, ask about her love life

Ann, a 28 year old single mother of two, was pretty pissed when she had to go see Dr. Finestone again. Honestly, she did not see how his questions were helping her get rid of the lasting back pain. He kept nagging her about her personal life, which was none of his business. For three years she's been dragging a nagging back pain. An X-Ray revealed a problem in her lower back, but this was not supposed to cause the distressing pain she was feeling. Now, on top of pain, there was discomfort at the doctor's seemingly intrusive questions.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure why I need to talk about my kids or my marriage-after all, I'm here for my back pain," she said. Ann, like most of us, might find Dr. Finestone a tad unconventional, mostly because it is so unlike the chop-chop way we're used to being handled.

What Dr. Finestone does is truly personalized medicine - he looks at the person in front of him as just that - a person- rather than an assortment of joints, bones, muscles and ligaments. He wants to know how you've been using them, because, for example, if you have a child with disability you might need to do more carrying and bathing than otherwise, and this could affect your back, even to the level of nerves. He also wonders about stressors, because wounds heal slower in stressed animals. And stressors are often present in our lives. This is why his questions did not stop at exercising and lifting heavy weights, but he also inquired about sleep quality, and anything that was perhaps upsetting in Ann's life.

The beauty of his way of practicing medicine is not just that it works, which is why doctors refer patients to him, when they cannot alleviate their pain or even figure out what is causing it, because the obvious, physical reason are not explaining enough. Yes, he does solve the problem and makes life livable again. But the beauty lies in the way he relishes the quest for the pain, actually caring about his patients' well-being, as people, not just as tormented spinal chords on too much medication.

Dr. Finestone's book "The Pain Detective" is a fascinating voyage into people's lives, their pains, physical and emotional, so closely intertwined, so that attempting to cure the one without tapping the other is inevitably futile. Ann's story is the opening chapter, titled" She figured it out", because Ann's relationship with her boyfriend was not a healthy one, and Dr. Finestone's questions, which she had initially deemed obnoxious, had helped her realize that, and had helped her understand the price she was paying for keeping that relationship. The next time the good doctor saw her, Ann had gotten rid of the boyfriend, and of the pain.

Other chapters travel to no less painful domains, such as alcohol abuse, job satisfaction or lack thereof, chronic fatigue, and posttrauma. A glimpse into Dr. Finestone's compassionate if quirky mind is given in titles such as "The Executive Asshole Syndrome, or Busy-People Arm-Pain Syndrome. "

How I met Dr. Finestone is typical to the kind of person he is. Last June in NYC, I was standing in line at a Diane Von Furstenberg sample sale, somewhere on 22nd Street. A long line, if I might add, when the man standing in front of me with his wife, turned around and asked if these things always take so long, and do I often go. That's Dr. Finestone in a nut shell - curious, connecting, wanting to know more, never placing judgment, and smiling from the heart.

— Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., Princeton University

First appeared here: Psychology Today Blog