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Reconceptualizing John F. Kennedy’s Chronic Low Back Pain

Pinals, Robert S. MD*; Hassett, Afton L. PsyD

Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine: September/October 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 5 - p 442–446
doi: 10.1097/AAP.0b013e3182a222ce
History Articles

When the medical records for John Fitzgerald Kennedy were made public, it became clear that the 35th President of the United States suffered greatly from a series of medical illnesses from the time he was a toddler until his assassination in November of 1963. Aside from having Addison disease, no condition seemed to cause him more distress than did his chronic low back pain. A number of surgical procedures to address the presumed structural cause of the pain resulted in little relief and increased disability. Later, a conservative program, including trigger point injections and exercises, provided modest benefit. Herein, the mechanisms underlying his pain are evaluated based on more contemporary pain research. This reconceptualizing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s pain could serve as a model for other cases where the main cause of the pain is presumed to be located in the periphery.

From the *Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ; and †Department of Anesthesiology, Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI.

Accepted for publication June 23, 2013.

Address correspondence to: Afton L. Hassett, PsyD, Department of Anesthesiology, Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center, University of Michigan, Domino’s Farms, Lobby M, PO Box 385, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 (e-mail:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

This case has not been previously presented by these authors.

Copyright © 2013 by American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.