Epidemiology of Pain. Edited by I. K. Crombie, P. R. Croft, S. J. Linton, L. LeResche, M. Von Korff. Seattle, IASP Press, International Association for the Study of Pain, 1999. Pages: 321. Cost: $61.00; $42.70 (IASP members).

This work represents the published results of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Task Force on Epidemiology. Epidemiology of Pain  consists of 19 chapters authored by various contributors. The book’s three main aims, as stated in the preface, are (1) to provide a repository of epidemiologic information about chronic pain syndromes; (2) to review the problems and pitfalls in epidemiologic studies of pain; and (3) to identify high-priority areas for future research. It should be noted that this book does not include references to acute pain or pain associated with cancer and its treatment, which renders the title of the book somewhat misleading. The use of graphs and tables varies considerably from chapter to chapter, and the use of figures is limited.

The first three chapters address the usefulness and methodology of epidemiologic studies. These chapters will be useful background reading for those seeking to design, conduct, or simply understand epidemiologic studies. The next five chapters consider the influence of various population characteristics (e.g.,  psychologic factors, extremes of age, gender, cross-cultural factors) on the prevalence and characteristics of chronic pain. The remaining 10 chapters characterize the available literature that addresses a number of chronic pain conditions; however, only subsets of known chronic pain conditions are addressed, and this book is not all-inclusive. For example, no chapters deal with neuropathic pain or sympathetically mediated pain. Although there are chapters regarding neck, shoulder, and knee pain, there is no discussion of hip, elbow, or abdominal pain. The 10 chapters concerning chronic pain conditions vary considerably. In many cases, the major conclusion of the authors is that the current literature is inadequate to permit a comprehensive epidemiologic analysis. Regardless, most of these chapters bring together the best available collection of research, whatever its deficits.

This book should be seen primarily as a reference text. To my knowledge, it is the only book of its kind, and there are none better and none worse. Epidemiology of Pain  represents a first attempt to compile comprehensive epidemiologic data concerning chronic pain. In a future edition, inclusion of chapters about more chronic pain conditions and information concerning acute and cancer-related pain should be considered.