Beyond Pain: Making the Mind-Body Connection

Beyond Pain delves into the condition of chronic pain to help us better understand its complexities, showing pain to be both a sensory experience and an interaction between mind and body. Based on author Angela Mailis-Gagnon’s extensive research and daily practice at a major urban hospital pain clinic, Beyond Pain uses case studies drawn from both her own practice and her personal experience.

Beyond Pain by Dr. Angela Mailis

Excerpts from Beyond Pain

In April of 2002 I received an intriguing letter from a Dr. Mailis-Gagnon at Toronto Western Hospital. …..  She was writing to me now, she said, because I seemed to have described a personal experience somewhat similar to (what she described), in my book A Leg to Stand On.

… I was excited by this letter; I had scarcely read two sentences, as I wrote to Dr. Mailis-Gagnon in my reply, before feeling, “Yes, that’s it!” I had puzzled for more than a quarter of a century about my own experience (the original accident and nerve injury had occurred in 1974), without arriving at any clear conclusion. 

…… And now, it seemed, Dr. Mailis- Gagnon might indeed, with a bold hypothesis and brilliant experiments, have provided an answer to the mystery.

… Bringing to her work the patience and empathy of a dedicated physician and the incisiveness of a trained neuroscientist, Dr. Mailis-Gagnon, along with her colleagues, has revolutionized our understanding and treatment of chronic pain, doing for chronic pain what her mentor, the late Patrick Wall, did for acute.

… Pain is infinitely more complex, more modifiable, more personal, than colour, and demands a much wider frame of reference—-that of the whole human organism and its needs, its values, its perspectives, its world. And it is this that comes through in every page of Angela Mailis-Gagnon’s beautiful and invaluable book


Dr. Oliver Sacks

Beyond Pain Forward by DR. OLIVER SACKS (British neurologist, and popular science writer, wrote Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat etc.)

… When it comes to complicated, chronic pain conditions – the focus of Dr. Mailis-Gagnon’s ground-breaking clinical/research career – most health care providers could be validly considered to be among the lay public. A personal, engrossing book, Beyond Pain succeeds in explaining complex concepts of neurophysiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology of pain syndromes without sacrificing readability.

…. With appropriate pride and humility, Dr. Mailis-Gagnon guides the reader along her diagnostic odysseys, allowing her/him to vicariously feel “the thrill of victory … the agony of defeat” with her honest accounting of clinical successes and failures. There are many lessons – about pain, about life – to be learned along the way.

…. Clinicians should (re-)read it to remember the level of duty and caring we owe especially to our chronic pain patients. Students should read it to learn what they should aspire to. Patients should read it to learn that they can still hope to live even when affected by the most daunting afflictions.

J Can Chiropr Assoc.

J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2004 June; 48(2): 180. IGOR STEIMAN, MSc, DC, FCCS(C)

….. The strong point of this book is her sense of warmth and good humour and optimism, and profound respect for her patients, no matter what their history or complaint. Her feistiness, that much characterizes her in reality, also comes across with her infectious good humour, and that gives great human interest to the narrative. Another strong point is the biopsychosocial perspective. There is a great variety of fascinating personal stories, even including that of Dr Mailis-Gagnon herself, and most patients will find patients’ stories that would speak to them.

….. Perhaps the greatest endorsement is that in the past two months three patients have come to me with this book in hand and have said that it was reassuring and helpful to read this, and that one or other patient story in it was particularly meaningful.

……. Clinicians involved in treatment of chronic pain, and especially clinicians who see patients with medically unexplained or ‘nonorganic’ symptoms, will find her approach and her concepts on this subject interesting and engaging.

…… It is not a textbook of diagnosis, of theory, or a how-to book, but it will likely appeal to patients who have chronic pain and who are looking for a way to understand that the biopsychosocial perspective is relevant and palatable for them as patients. It will also appeal to clinicians who have struggled with interpreting medically unexplainable complaints in their pain patients.

Eldon Tunks MD

J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2004 June; 48(2): 180. IGOR STEIMAN, MSc, DC, FCCS(C)

Beyond Pain is…. is an interesting read for clinicians and others who want to know more about why and how we experience pain. I liked the numerous examples that Dr. Malais-Gagnon used to illustrate her research. I felt that they added to the readability of the book.

Book Club Review

Book Club Review 19/5/2004

… In this well-written and entertaining book, Dr. Mailis-Gagnon, a Toronto-based pain specialist, demonstrates that there are usually no simple treatments for pain.  …… The book is aimed at the general reader. The language is simple (but not simplistic), and complex ideas are clearly explained and illustrated with case studies. …. The book is well researched and includes a good index…… Overall, Beyond Pain is an excellent book that will be relevant to us all, as we are all touched by pain at some time or another.

Ian W. Toal

CBRA On Line Review by IAN W. TOAL, registered nurse in Winnipeg, Manitoba.