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In Elemental. More on Medium.

The unusual history of whiskey surgery and cocaine tooth drops

Photo: National Library of Medicine

There once was a time without pain killer. We had no aspirin, no ibuprofen, no anesthetic for surgery. How did we manage pain in the past? What led to the first breakthroughs in pain management? Can it help us confront chronic pain today?

The Nuance

How expectation, emotion, and other neurocognitive factors affect our perception of pain

Illustration: Kieran Blakey for Elemental

Imagine that you’re about to have a tooth pulled. Your dentist tells you that, unfortunately, the tooth’s roots are infected, and so the procedure is going to hurt. A lot. It can’t be helped.

How the body responds to pain

Photo: Mitchell Hollander/Unsplash

I’ve been thinking about pain lately.

Child and adult spines become misshapen when people don’t follow this advice

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

With some students returning to schools where lockers aren’t available due to Covid-19 prevention efforts, parents would be wise to make sure their children have the right backpack and that it’s packed properly and not overloaded, lest the load reshape a young spine and cause unnecessary pain.

This unusual tactic transforms wallowing into a powerful mental health exercise

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Given frustrations, anxieties, and fears coming up during Covid-19, you may have been searching for coping methods that don’t include TV bingeing or reaching for another glass of wine. One you may not be familiar with is “existential kink,” a term coined by author and expert Carolyn Elliott, PhD. Based on concepts like Freud’s pleasure principle and Jung’s shadow, existential kink (EK) allows us to process difficult or “don’t like” emotions by consciously enjoying them.

Becoming a homebody doesn’t have to hurt. Here’s how to soothe stiff, achy muscles in minutes a day.

Photo: Maria Fuchs/Getty Images

If you’ve been trying to stretch the kinks out of your work-from-home body but are still feeling tight and achy, there’s something else you can try: self-myofascial release (SMFR).

Illustrations: Alexandre Luu

Here’s why your body hurts and what you can do about it

Back tight? Knees sore? You’re not alone. It’s been just over a month since the first “shelter in place” order was issued in America — nearly one month since many of us were asked to physically isolate our already stressed-out, suboptimally nourished, sleep-deprived bodies to our homes (residences that may or may not be set up for working) — and it’s taking its toll.

Rediscovering mobility in spite of osteoarthritis

Photo: GlobalStock/Getty Images

In 2013, at 35 years old, I was an active mother of two. After dropping my oldest son off at school, I would strap my two-year-old in the jogging stroller with a book and goldfish crackers and go for a run.

The Nuance

The science behind spinal manipulation, and why it seems to work for some people

An animated GIF of a woman lying down on her side with a pile of rocks lumped on to her body.
An animated GIF of a woman lying down on her side with a pile of rocks lumped on to her body.
Illustration: Kieran Blakey

Pain is a plague on the American populace. According to data from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, nearly 20% of U.S. adults experience pain most days or every day.

Some therapists are using mindfulness-based activities as pain treatment. Do they work?

Illustration: Ellie Ji Yang

Nicole Sachs was 19 when she decided to try a psychology experiment on herself. She’d just been diagnosed with the spinal condition spondylolisthesis, which causes vertebrae to slip out of place. Sachs’ doctors gave her a discouraging prognosis: Without complex surgery, she wouldn’t be able to travel, play sports, or have kids.


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