Although we’re dealing with the middle ages, medicine actually goes back an unbelievably long, long way. Trepanation, a technique whereby a hole was drilled or scraped into a skull to treat problems related to intra cranial pressure and other diseases, was practised as early as 6500 BCE, and according to the skulls examined, many painfully survived. Jaws with perforations to drain abscesses have been found in Egypt and dated to 2650 BCE, and still others in India dating back 9,000 years. Surgical instruments were unearthed in China dating from the Shang Dynasty, and the only extant surgical texts date back to ancient Egypt some 3500 years ago. Surgery is a delicate and complex matter requiring precise instruments, thorough anatomical knowledge and the essential anaesthesia. We can only imagine what any type of surgery must have been like thousands of years ago, and really even just hundreds of years. If the past could travel to the present in a sound wave, it would be a howling scream of pain. Except for the image of the wise and docile apothecary, all the medicine of the past must have been an exercise in cruelty. In Europe, medicine was left in the hands of monks, who had access to the best medical literature of the day written by Arab scholars. Later, by papal edict, the profession was handed down to farmers and barbers, making pain an illiterate affair. Regardless of who was performing the operation, excruciating pain was guaranteed. Bite down on a tough piece of leather as you read the most painful medical treatments of yesteryear.