The Evolution of Pain Medicine: A Historical Overview


The field of pain medicine has evolved a lot over time. In this article, Dr Faris Abusharif will explore some of the major milestones in its history.

The Evolution of Pain Medicine: A Historical Overview”

Pain medicine is a relatively new field of study, but it has a rich history. The first use of opioids for pain management dates back to 400 BC and was recorded in one of the oldest medical texts in existence, known as the Ebers Papyrus. In this document, an herbal remedy containing opium poppies was prescribed for headaches and toothaches.

The evolution of pain medicine has been driven by many factors: technological advancements; cultural attitudes toward pain management; and changing perceptions regarding how best to treat patients who suffer from chronic or acute pain. Today’s healthcare providers face numerous challenges as they work toward improving outcomes while minimizing harm at every stage along this journey–from diagnosis through treatment plan development and beyond.”

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians understood pain as a divine punishment for misdeeds or as an aspect of the human condition. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) believed that illnesses were caused by an imbalance in the four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Pain was seen as a blessing from the gods that could not be cured but only managed with massage, herbs and acupuncture.

Pain management has come a long way since then!

Medieval Times to the Renaissance

  • The Middle Ages
  • During this time, there was no understanding of pain. It was thought to be an emotion or state of mind, not a physical sensation.
  • The Renaissance
  • In addition to being an era of artistic expression and scientific discovery, this period also saw the development of new forms of medicine that included surgery. However, many people still believed that only God could heal them (and they were right).

17th Century Europe

In the 17th century, Boyle’s law was discovered. This law states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional to each other. That is to say, if you increase the pressure of a gas or liquid it will decrease in volume and vice versa.

The discovery of oxygen also occurred during this time period by Carl Scheele and Joseph Priestley who both independently discovered it around 1772-1774 (Scheele) and 1774-1775 (Priestley). Oxygen is an essential component for life on Earth; however, its exact function wasn’t known until much later when we learned that it helps transfer energy within cells through respiration.

Morphine was isolated from opium at around 1805 by Friedrich Serturner who named it “morphium” after Morpheus – Greek god of dreams because he believed it caused people to sleep deeply like they were dreaming while under its effects! The hypodermic syringe was invented by Alexander Wood around 1831 but didn’t become widely available until after 1840 when Charles Gabriel Pravaz first used them therapeutically during surgery operations instead of having assistants inject medicine into patients’ veins manually – which could cause infections due to repeated needle sticks into one person’s blood stream over time! And finally endorphins were discovered in 1975 thanks largely due their role as neurotransmitters released naturally within our bodies during exercise or other forms physical activity because these compounds act similarly as opiates do when introduced externally (through injection etc) but without any side effects such as addiction/tolerance issues associated with drugs like heroin or morphine

18th Century America

The 19th century was a time of great change in the field of medicine. In 1846, William Morton demonstrated the first use of ether as an anesthetic agent, ushering in a new era of surgery. Two years later, chloroform was discovered by James Young Simpson and became widely used as an alternative to ether.

In addition to these developments in anesthesia, several other advances were made: The hypodermic needle was invented by Charles Gabriel Pravaz (1823-1911), who also developed many techniques for treating fractures; Joseph Lister pioneered antiseptic surgery; Ignacz Semmelweis demonstrated that hand washing could prevent puerperal fever (also known as childbed fever); and Louis Pasteur developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies.

19th Century England and France

During the 19th century, pain medicine was a burgeoning field. Hypnosis and hydrotherapy were used to treat both acute and chronic pain. Opium was prescribed as a sedative and analgesic in Europe, while morphine became popular in the United States after its invention by Bayer Pharmaceuticals (now part of the German company Altana). Cocaine was also introduced during this time period due to its stimulating effects on the central nervous system; however, its popularity quickly declined after it was discovered that cocaine could be addictive and cause fatal overdoses if taken in large doses over long periods of time. Chloroform became popular as an effective means for inducing unconsciousness during surgery because it worked quickly without causing any significant side effects–a major improvement over ether which produced nausea or vomiting after use

20th Century USA and UK

The 20th century was a time of change for pain medicine. The medical profession had little understanding of pain, and many believed that it was a punishment for sin. In fact, there were no effective treatments for chronic pain during most of this period.

Painkillers such as aspirin were not widely available until the late 19th century when they became more common in pharmacies and hospitals. The first use of morphine as an analgesic was recorded in 1804 by Friedrich Serturner (1783-1841), who isolated pure morphine from opium poppies at Paderborn University in Germany. Serturner published his results in 1817 but did not pursue further research into its use as an analgesic.[1]

There has been a lot of progress in the field of pain medicine over the years.

Pain is a complex phenomenon that can be difficult to define. It’s an individualized experience, and it is subjective to the context in which it occurs. Pain is also influenced by culture, environment and even time of day. For example, if you stub your toe at 3 p.m., it will hurt more than if you stubbed your toe at 3 a.m.; however, both injuries could cause similar levels of tissue damage and inflammation–the only difference between them being the time when they occurred (and therefore how much sleep deprivation may have played into your pain experience).

In addition to these factors impacting how severe or tolerable someone finds their pain experience to be; there are other factors influencing how well they recover from an injury as well:


There is no doubt that the study and treatment of pain has come a long way over the past few hundred years. From ancient Egyptians and Greeks to Medieval times, we have seen many advances in the field of pain medicine. Today, there are many different types of medicines available for treating different types of pain as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture which have been shown to be effective at reducing stress levels and anxiety levels in patients suffering from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis.

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