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Reconceptualizing John F. Kennedy’s Chronic Low Back Pain
  1. Robert S. Pinals, MD* and
  2. Afton L. Hassett, PsyD
  1. *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.
  1. 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: afton{at}


Abstract 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.

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  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

    This case has not been previously presented by these authors.