Chronic Pain — The Power of Language Part 2
Recently I posted on social media a page from the latest Brukner and Khan textbook (Clinical Sports Medicine) listing all too common phrases that you might hear during from a visit with your health professional.
Why is this rephrasing important? Why does it matter how words are conveyed as words can never hurt you? Sticks and stones right? Well, what if I told you that you don’t have pain receptors? That pain is an evaluated response based on your environment and experiences? Mind….blown…..What if I told you that we don’t have hunger receptors? There are lots of systems in the body such as stomach acid, blood sugar levels (hangry anyone???), smell receptors, that all let us know when we are hungry, but no specific hunger receptors. Pain also works off various signals from within our body, combined with the environment we are interacting with to create a pain response. Simple. However, this gets complicated when pain persists for longer than we might expect. For example, soft tissue healing timeframes are 1-6 weeks, depending on the injury. So, what happens if you continue to experience constant or fluctuating pain after this period of time, in say 3 months? 6 months?
As language is part of your experience, your interaction with your therapist and the phrasing of terms like ‘bone on bone’, ‘blown discs’, ‘arthritis’, ‘ruptured’, ‘herniated’, ‘extruded’, ‘hip is out’….can all have a significant impact on your beliefs about the state of your body and how it should feel. Often this is simply a case of the therapist explaining to you the results of scans or tests to empower you with the knowledge of what is happening in your body. Unfortunately this message is often delivered in a brief space of time without ensuring that the person fully understands how normal it is for our backs to show normal signs of aging. Quick fact: 90% of adults over 50 show age-related signs of aging in their neck. Here is an excellent way to determine whether or not you understand what has been discussed with your treating practitioner; the Kieran O’Sullivan test:
There are some pain gurus out there who dedicate their energy to understanding and explaining the interesting phenomenon that is chronic pain. In Australia, we are very fortunate to have world leading researchers in the field of pain science. Not only are they able to explain to us as therapists how the body’s pain pathways work, but they also provide excellent explanations to the general public on what happens when you experience pain.
For some very entertaining, yet informative videos, have a look at the below links.
*Both videos came recommended by Dr Peter Braun.
For some more interactive material, the Explain Pain handbook and the Protectometer Handbook are both excellent investments to help you or someone you love better understand the journey of chronic pain. These can be found here: http://www.noigroup.com/en/Product/EPEPHPX
For any questions, please get in contact with your health professional.