Needless Suffering

How Society Fails Those with Chronic Pain

David Nagel

Needless Suffering offers a sociological examination of a complex medical problem: chronic pain and the inability of doctors and other health professionals to understand and manage it in their patients. People in pain, writes Dr. David Nagel, are the poor of the medical world. Like the poor, they are stigmatized and left at the mercy of powerful social actors who tend to work in their own self-interest, frequently at the expense of those they propose to serve. This leaves those who suffer with little control over their own destinies and creates a dysfunctional status quo that harms instead of helps. Drawing on his own experience witnessing his mother’s chronic pain and numerous clinical stories from over thirty years’ expertise as a pain management specialist, Nagel looks first at patients, their families, and their doctors (usually not trained in pain management), and then broadens his canvas to elaborate a pain power structure that includes the entire healthcare community, insurers, lawyers, government regulators, employers, politicians, law enforcement agencies, and painkilling drugs. Concluding with concrete reforms to create more effective and compassionate pain care, this book is designed for pain patients and their families, healthcare providers, legislators and other public policymakers, judges, personal injury and other attorneys, insurers, government regulators, law enforcement personnel, and health care businesspeople.

Paper: $24.95 | E-book: $19.99
ISBN-13: 9781611688894
Pages: 320 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: July 5, 2016

Additional Images

Book Trailer


  • Nagel blends medical and personal knowledge and policy expertise to portray the complexities of chronic pain for both patients and physicians. Using his and other patients’ stories to illustrate the difficulties of treating chronic pain, and describing the ways in which sufferers are often ostracized by the medical system, the author begins by exploring the reality of chronic pain both in biology and those who live with it, providing helpful suggestions for reform of disability insurance and entitlement programs so they may reenter the workforce without losing their benefits.

    Library Journal
  • This interesting book is a giant step forward in transforming individual and societal perceptions based on "ignorance, laziness, and greed. . . . Recommended.

  • Dr. Nagel is a rebel. He does not accept the status quo and challenges current medical models. He takes aim at the "business of medicine", the disability system, and the impersonal electronic health record. This is contrasted with affirmative recommendations about changing primary care training and incentives for treating chronic pain. His ideas about patient care will inspire readers to hold fast to concerns about our medical system and to advocate passionately for patients with chronic pain and other difficult-to-treat illnesses.

    Family Medicine
  • This book is a must-read because David Nagel remembers why he went to medical school. The United States has a broken pain treatment infrastructure that has patients and health-care providers in turmoil. Dr. Nagel has a unique understanding of both the problem and the solution.

    Ed Coghlan
    editor, National Pain Report
  • Needless Suffering is a remarkable book that has the potential to change the way we talk about pain in America. Dr. Nagel unveils the many unspoken truths about a flawed health-care system that imprisons chronic pain patients for life. This book should be mandatory reading by health-care regulators, lawmakers, and anyone who wants to remove the stigma of the most prevalent medical problem in America: chronic pain.

    Lynn R. Webster
    MD, former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and author of The Painful Truth

About the Author

David J. Nagel

Dr. David Nagel specializes in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain management at Concord Orthopaedics (New Hampshire). He is a member of the Pain Action Alliance to Implement a National Strategy (PAINS) and serves as New Hampshire representative to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. He lives in Gilmanton, New Hampshire.


Table Of Contents

Other Recent Titles

Life Beyond Medicine

Sharon Romm, MD; Paul Wick, MD, fwd.

A Doctor's Dozen

Catherine Florio Pipas, MD, MPH

That’s Gotta Hurt

Dr. David Geier


Catherine Musemeche

Diseases of Poverty

Lisa V. Adams, John R. Butterly