John F. Kennedy’s Pain Story Detailed in Practical Pain Management and

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A pain expert examines John F. Kennedy’s medical history and highlights how a genetic autoimmune disorder JFK suffered became centralized intractable pain. Crucial article for pain practitioners who want to understand why autoimmune disorders are important in treating pain.

Pain practitioners need to be fully appreciative of the lifetime course of genetic autoimmune diseases, and JFK’s medical history provides a classic case from which to learn.

What can patients and physicians learn from JFK’s pain story today? It is now believed that JFK suffered from an autoimmune disease that emerged in early childhood and progressed throughout his life into disabling pain and disability— according to an article in the September issue of Practical Pain Management (PPM), a premier pain journal for practicing pain specialists, primary care physicians, rheumatologists, pediatricians, and emergency medicine specialists.

In the feature, John F. Kennedy’s Pain Story: From Autoimmune Disease To Centralized Pain, Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH, and Editor in Chief of PPM, reviews the medical evidence to support JFK’s diagnosis of Schmidt’s syndrome. Although not recognized at the time, Schmidt’s syndrome is associated with the development of osteoporosis, Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency) and thyroid disease—all present in Kennedy’s medical records, which were first released to the public in 2002.

Dr. Tennant explains how Janet Travell, MD, a well-know pain specialist at the time and Kennedy’s personal physician, succeeded in providing the President with a comprehensive pain management program that enabled him to overcome his disability, run for president, and serve 1,000 days, with only one day of missed work.

“Pain practitioners need to be fully appreciative of the lifetime course of genetic autoimmune diseases, and JFK’s medical history provides a classic case from which to learn,” says Tennant.

Although initially criticized, Dr. Travell’s pain treatment regimen included an interdisciplinary approach— ranging from pain medications, physical therapy, hormone replacement, and attempts to slow down the effects of his autoimmune disease. “To a pain specialist like myself who treats centralized intractable pain, the medical records reveal Dr. Travell’s truly amazing and incredible treatment regimen that is a marvel by even today’s standards,” says Dr. Tennant.

According to Dr. Tennant, although Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullet, “he would never have been in that convertible on that fateful day if it had not been for the skill of his pain physician.”

Read more about JFK’s pain story at

About Practical Pain Management, a Vertical Health Publication
Founded in 2000, Practical Pain Management is the most prominent pain journal for practicing pain specialists, but it’s also read by PCPs, rheumatologists, pediatricians, and emergency medicine specialists—in short, clinicians on the front lines of pain. The Journal is written by pain experts and leaders in the field. It has a circulation of more than 46,000. Practical Pain Management helps clinicians navigate the latest research in pain to bring these benefits to their patients. Learn more about Practical Pain Management.

About Vertical Health
Vertical Health is the leading online health information platform for both physicians and consumers through its owned and operated online portals including, and With our Editorial Board of leading medical professionals and deep experience in pain management, musculoskeletal diseases, and endocrine disorders, we provide all the tools both patients and professionals need to make better, more informed decisions—and ultimately improve patient outcomes. Learn more about Vertical Health, LLC.

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Frani DeLuisi
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