Pain is Personal
For your patients living with pain, it’s personal.
Yet, describing their pain can be a difficult and emotional experience. There’s no one established way for patients to talk about pain, so they may struggle to explain the level of pain and suffering they’re facing.
Communication is vital.
Because their pain can’t be seen, or accurately measured, helping patients talk about their experiences can help facilitate pain treatment and management. Even if you just acknowledge their pain, it will offer them some measure of relief. As you know, the key is to establish a dialogue with patients and use the tools and questionnaires that help foster dialogue. Ask them how long they’ve been in pain, and the frequency and duration of their pain. Consider starting a conversation about how pain impacts their daily activities and life and how it affects their relationships with others.
Treatment should be personalized.
Because each person’s pain is unique, treating pain can be an ongoing challenge. There are often multiple, overlapping conditions that can make prescribing pain medications and dosing levels difficult. There often is no easy option. An open dialogue can lead to a better understanding of a patient’s needs and helps build trust, as you determine the most appropriate long-term treatment option. Here are a few other aspects of pain and pain management to consider as you counsel your patients on the best path moving forward:
Patients Need Support from Family and Loved Ones.
Pain can put a strain on a patient’s relationships, both inside and outside the immediate family, and have a dramatic impact on a patient’s daily life. This may cause them to opt out of invitations, to avoid friends, and to stop talking about their pain, resulting in a sense of isolation. One approach toward obtaining support is for patients to let others know about their situation and to ask for their support, as they take the steps necessary to find a solution.
Patients Need to Find Dignity in Their Pain.
To gain respect from others, and feel better about themselves, some patients choose to bravely move on with life and push through their pain. For some, it may be difficult to rely on others for support. Patients can find dignity and maintain control by making lifestyle changes that can help alleviate their pain, including keeping fit and eating healthy. They might also find a line of work that is less physically demanding.
Meaning & Purpose
Patients Seek Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Life.
The inability to hold a job, participate in their favorite hobbies, or fulfill their role as parent, spouse or partner, can have a negative impact on a patient’s sense of purpose. You might encourage your patients to find new sources of fulfillment – whether it is volunteering, picking up a new hobby, or strengthening ties with family. Your patients also do not need to abandon the activities they enjoy most. You might encourage them to find ways to adapt their hobbies and interests to be more manageable in their condition. For instance, an avid golfer may be able to play 9 holes instead of 18, or a baker could prepare a recipe over the course of several hours or days. Whatever path they take, it is important that your patients understand that their pain should not prevent them from leading a meaningful life.
Patients Want Control of Their Lives.
The uncertainty and unpredictability that come with injury or illness, along with the changing nature of their pain, can make it difficult for patients to accept their new limitations. You could suggest that some people maintain control by establishing a regular daily routine that starts from the moment they get out of bed and continues throughout the day. Others find they maintain a level of control by becoming their own medical advocate, educating themselves about their treatment and treatment options.
The media coverage of overdoses and fatalities related to pain medication is increasing the social stigma around using them. Not everyone understands the differences between tolerance, dependence and addiction to pain medications. You may choose to counsel them on the distinctions. In addition, patients living with pain may encounter those who judge them, creating difficult interactions with friends and relatives to some members of the medical community. This can result in personal anxiety. Remember that their pain is personal, as is the way you prescribe treatment. You can also remind them that everyone should have a healthy respect for the risks and benefits of their treatment.
It May Help Patients to Reframe Their Circumstances and Expectations.
For patients, living with pain is an emotional journey and they may struggle to stay positive when faced with the negative emotions that can sometimes occur. You may be able to help them adjust their outlook in order to set attainable goals; instead of hoping for less pain, hoping for periods of less pain. Here are a few strategies you could share:
- • Seek emotional support from care team, friends, family, support groups
- • Focus on positive thinking, through counseling or meditation
- • Engage in activities that make them feel happy
- • Avoid negativity, including negative people
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