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A Short History of Pain Management: How it All Began

Published on 6th November 2018
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A Short History of Pain Management: How it All Began

Pain management has a long and interesting history that can trace its humble beginnings to a wide range of cultures. Our article is going to help you learn a bit about the beginnings of pain management therapy and will touch on some of the modern treatment options that are currently available.

The Humble Beginnings of Pain Management

Starting With The Basics

Tracing back the history of pain management therapy is often complicated by the fact that, historically speaking, many of the past pain treatment options can be credited to multiple nationalities. Humans have a natural innate need to minimize pain wherever possible and to treat it in an efficient way.

Starting With The Basics

One of the earliest forms of pain management therapy came from a compound called salicylic acid. This was derived from a wide range of salicylate-rich plants. One of the most notable examples was the willow tree. The beginnings of this pain treatment method can be traced all the way back to antiquity with beginnings in what was once known as the region of Sumer.

Hermann Kolbe

There are also historical records from the Greek physician Hippocrates that recommend chewing willow bark to help relieve pain and reduce fever. In addition, he also recommends consuming a tea made from the bark of willow to help relieve pain after childbirth.

However, the turning point for this type of pain management method occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time period, a wide range of chemists, like Raffaele Piria and Joseph Buchner, were working to isolate and purify what we now call salicylic acid. Unfortunately, the distillation methods of the time to produce concentrated versions of this compound proved to be quite wasteful.

Fortunately, the scientist Hermann Kolbe developed a way to manufacturer salicylic acid synthetically. The only downside is that the concentrated compound often lead to a wide range of side effects, one of the most common being gastrointestinal upset.

However, this paved the way for other scientists to work on altering the formula slightly into what we know today as aspirin. This was one of the earliest forms of basic pain relief for a wide range of conditions ranging from mild arthritis to pain from dental procedures.

The Use of Opioids and Anesthetics

Opioids have a whole other history attached to them. Their history can be traced back as far as the 1600s where European doctors routinely used them to help relieve severe pain for their patients. This included pain in hard to treat areas like the lower spine and severe arthritis.


However, the growing surgical profession required the invention of another form of pain relief. This is where the use of chloroform and ether came into place around the 1600s as well. For patients, the ability to be operated on safely while under sedation was often considered a blessing.

The 1900s is when the use of heroin and morphine began to become commonplace. While these compounds were extremely effective in alleviating pain, doctors began to notice that these pain treatment methods ultimately led to severe addiction for patients with chronic pain.

heroin and morphine

These developments led to the formation of pain management in the medical field in the 1960s. Since then, doctors have attempted to continue to develop new and innovative treatment options to help patients manage their pain effectively.

The Modern Day Pain Management Center

Picking the right pain management center is one of the most important things patients are tasked with. The right type of clinic for you will be able to effectively treat a wide range of conditions and will also have experience delivering targeted relief to delicate areas like the spine.

pain managment building in Fairfax Virginia

Fortunately, our Fairfax, Virginia pain clinic has years of experience working with patients with a wide range of health conditions. We work to develop a treatment plan that works for them and always ensure that safety protocols are followed effectively. In addition to servicing the Fairfax area, our clinic can also be accessed easily from most of Northern Virginia. If you’re concerned about reaching our location from the Northern Virginia area, please do not hesitate to give us a call.

Summing Up

The history of pain relief and management is long and interesting. Even today, physicians and scientist are working around the clock to develop new and exciting treatment methods for a wide range of conditions. If you suffer from chronic pain, please do not hesitate to contact our Virginia pain clinic office for a consultation. Together, we can work to create a pain management plan that works for you.

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Location 1
Fairfax, VA 4001 Fair Ridge Dr, Suite 202 Fairfax, VA 22033
Location 2
Potomac, MD 7811 Montrose Rd, Suite 220 Potomac, MD 20854