Ronald Melzack, cartographer of pain, is dead at 90

<pre><pre>Ronald Melzack, cartographer of pain, is dead at 90

"Finally, for the first time, people had a model to try or refute," said Jeffrey Mogil, a professor of pain studies at McGill, in a telephone interview. “There was no real field of pain research before the door control theory; after that, people began to think of themselves as pain researchers, and soon an international society was established. "

Doctors loved the theory, and also their patients, said Dr. Allan Basbaum, president of the anatomy department at the University of California, San Francisco. "The key was the door," he said in an interview. “Turn it to one side and it closes, and to the other side it opens. If the information that reaches the brain causes pain depends on the balance of activity in the small and large fibers that enter through the door. "


In the 1970s, Dr. Melzack resorted to another problem he had been thinking about for years: pain measurement. At that time, doctors only had very raw instruments, such as simply asking people to rate their level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (a method that is still in use). As a young researcher, Dr. Melzack had worked in a chronic pain clinic and befriended a 70-year-old woman with diabetes.

"He was a very intelligent person with a good vocabulary, and I began to collect his descriptive words about pain, such as" burning, "" shooting, "" horrible, "and" unbearable, "he told McGill Reporter in a 2008 interview.

He continued to build his collection of adjectives by listening to the descriptions of many patients and, working with a statistician, divided them into 20 categories, each describing a particular type of pain: "pulls", "pulls" and "heartbreaking" in one category, by example, and "pinch", "press" and "gnaw" on another.

This descriptive catalog, published in the journal Pain in 1975, became the McGill Pain Questionnaire. It soon became a standard measure throughout the world, deeply enriching the conversations doctors have with their patients and, in many cases, helping with the diagnosis.