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Great minds – Pat Wall

By Noigroup HQ Great minds 13 Dec 2013

BBC Radio 4  (1999) Patrick Wall and Samir Zeki  interviewed by  Melvyn Bragg on iTunes.

This has previously made the rounds on the web. On listening again I was initially quite sad hearing Pat’s voice – he died over a decade ago, but his rich precise descriptions of pain, suffering and the inadequacies of medical management for pain ring as true today as they did 15 years when the interview was taped.

I think anyone who manages pain should listen again. The youngsters may wonder what Pat Wall was all about, but I don’t think there has ever been such an influential contributor to our current understanding of pain and the conceptual shifts about pain that have occurred in the last decade or so. He was far more than the “gate control theory”, he was a scientist with few peers in pain research but his love was taking it out of the lab to clinicians and patients.  A habit of his was to meet up at a conference, say “this is a bit boring, let’s go to the pub for few pints – I want to hear what you guys are doing and thinking about the real  battlefront of pain  – the patient”

-David Butler


  1. Thanks, Dave for finding and sharing this interview with us. It’s amazing that we are still singing that same song all over the World – and that pain can still be stigmatising!

  2. Reblogged this on videnomsmerter and commented:
    Patrick Wall er, om nogen, den moderne smertevidenskab’s fader. Jeg re-blogger et link til et interview med Pat Wall fra BBC i 1999. Det er fantastisk, at høre ham fortælle om hans indsigt i hvad smerte er – men også trist at erkende, at det stadig er nødvendigt at gentage ham 15 år senere! Gad vide hvor vi havde været hvis han stadig havde været i blandt os til at skabe forbindelse mellem naturvidenskab, filosofi og patienterne?

  3. timcocks0noigroup

    I could listen to Pat Wall for hours; a wonderful combination of an accent that is very easy on the ears and an amazing intellect behind it.

    At about the 4’30” mark Wall says something that I thought was profoundly important in relation to pain and equally illuminating in regards to his basic approach. In response to being asked about the purpose of pain, and in the particular context of his own cancer, Wall answered;

    “To begin with, we are *evolved animals*….. evolved, challenged by certain historical problems in how to remain alive” (My emphasis*)

    But equally, a deep empathetic approach to people in pain as evinced by his response to the pain being “all in the mind” question.

    A “must listen”

  4. davidboltononoi

    I have been fortunate enough to experience Pat Wall “live” many moons ago lecturing alongside Jimmy Cyriax at St Thomas’s….listening to him again brought back so many memories…… the time he reckoned that a certain “Ladies Acessory that vibrated” was the ultimate frequency for a Tens machine. An approach to persistent pain that was in its infancy then. The accessory was far cheaper than it’s medical counterpart!!!! Our first clinical challenge was how to suggest to our patients, female AND male that they go out and get one. Soho became very busy …….Listening to Pat again still delivered many phrases that I will find so useful, in the present day when performing my EP stories to patients……. Thank you Pat for lending us your broad shoulders to stand on, and the hang overs that I endured in your company ……xx

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