Pain is a complex subject and draws upon ideas and methods from many other areas of science and the humanities. And so, entering into the field can be a daunting task for anyone. I've spent the last 3 years as a graduate student trying to educate myself on the basics. I didn't have any neuroscience training previously, so in addition to learning the specifics of pain research, I also needed to get the foundations of neuroscience under my belt. Below are my suggestions for some of the most helpful resources that I've used to learn about pain. These recommendations are targeted to primarily to those studying pain from a molecular/cellular perspective, although clinical pain researcher will find much of value here too.
I invite you to share your suggestions for useful resources for new entrants to the field in the thread below.
Neuroscience Online: This is a well-done, accessible and free online textbook for neuroscience. If you're new to neuroscience or need to review important concepts this is a great place to start.
MCB80x: Fundamentals of Neuroscience (Harvard edX): An innovative, engaging, modern and informative MOOC from Harvard. The videos and presentations are unmatched, going outside the lecture hall to the forefront of modern neuroscience. This is also an excellent place to start to either learn or review the basics.
Neuroscience research draws upon the experimental techniques from so many fields. Accordingly, it can be really difficult to get a handle on all the tools that one can use to address a question. This unique book is the answer, bringing together all the diverse methods into one highly accessible book. Great for advance undergrads or beginning grad students. I read this cover to cover when I first joined a pain lab for my graduate work. This should be one of the first books you read when starting pain research. Even the veteran researcher will find something valuable here.
Written by a luminary of pain research, this is an entertaining and engaging book about pain. This is not a textbook, but rather a beautifully written narrative taking the reader through a journey across all aspects of pain perception. It's made for a general audience, but for that reason it is one of the best places to start for anyone entering the pain field. Rather than going right into molecules or cells, it take a high-level view at the big concepts of pain, weaving aspects of philosophy, cognitive science, molecular/cellular neurobiology, physiology, psychology and medicine to provide an encompassing story about pain. Read this first!
What more can you say? This is the canonical text of the field. Just about everything you want to know about pain research can be found in these pages. I find this to be a good reference resource that should be read only when/if you have a good handle on neuroscience basic principles and techniques. Because it is authored by many people, there isn't a coherent voice or thread that ties the chapters together. They're self-contained units. So that's why I recommend reading chapters as needed. But, if you're so inclined, the first fourteen chapters are basic principles and do a good job of bringing one up to speed on the basics of pain science.
Pain Research Methods: This book is more specific to pain research and encompasses a broad array of commonly used techniques in pain.
Science of Pain (Basbaum et al. 2008): A textbook comprised of articles by top pain researchers. Very similar in scope and detail as Textbook of Pain. In fact, many of the chapters look identical because the same authors wrote the same kind of chapters in each book. There are some unique elements in this book, but overall, it lacks a bit of the polish that Textbook of Pain has. Still a worthwhile reference.