It’s notoriously difficult to display invisibles in medical exhibitions. And what’s more invisible than pain? When you break a leg, the lesion is visible, but the pain is not. A mostly subjective sensation, chronic pain has few, if any, visible physical correlates. How do you display headache?
I came to think about this when I heard about the Birkbeck Pain Project, which invites contributions to a workshop organised by Daniel S. Goldberg, titled “The History of Pain Without Lesion in the Mid-to-Late 19th Century West”. The workshop will deal with the social, cultural, and medical status of what we might now refer to as chronic pain sufferers, including labels and complaints, like neuralgia, neurasthenia, hysteria, railway spine, spinal irritation, spinal concussion, headache, dysmenorrhea, and pain without lesion.