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A famous case of chronic back pain: JFK, part 1

One of the important threads we're following in this blog is chronic back pain.

Millions of people across the country and around the world face this type of pain. And sometimes the pain arises in contexts where workers' compensation or Social Security disability issues may be involved.

In our May 31 post, we wrote about continuing research regarding ways of responding to chronic back pain without excessive reliance on potentially-addictive prescription drugs.

In this two-part post, we will discuss the case of one of the most famous sufferers from back pain in American history: President John F. Kennedy.

Last month of course marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. National interest in this inspiring yet complicated man, often referred to as JFK, has never waned. The anniversary of his death is an occasion to take note of the role that back pain played in his rather tortuous medical history.

Two researchers recently published an article in the journal Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine about JFK’s chronic back pain. They concluded that though JFK appeared to exude vibrant health, his back pain was very nearly incapacitating.

The pain in his lower was practically constant. It was also longstanding, dating perhaps as far back as 1940. He tried several surgical procedures over the years, trying to address the pain, but surgery did not provide a workable solution.

Eventually JFK took to wearing a back brace. And he often used crutches to walk when he was out of the public eye.

In part two of this post, we will discuss how doctors might try to address chronic back pain conditions such as JFK’s today.

Source: University of Michigan Health System, "Reconceptualizing JFK's chronic back pain," Nov. 26, 2013

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