PAIN is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” But when pain is chronic and not related to cancer, there is a tendency for many people to have difficulty empathizing with the pain patient’s plight. There are a few reasons for this, in my opinion:
THE INVISIBLE: When pain means suffering, many people want others to know the challenges that they are undergoing due to that pain. However, there is rarely obvious information to prove that the pain truly exists. There is a struggle for patients to have friends, family, or medical professionals believe their pain exists. Unfortunately, not being believed can have a negative impact on that patient’s experience of pain. The suffering is real whether we see it or not.
THE INSIDIOUS: The reality is that chronic pain started out as acute pain since chronic pain is typically defined as a duration of 3 months, 6 months, or beyond normal healing time. However, a significant amount of chronic pain appears insidiously without an obvious known cause or injury to the patient. Yet, there are many events, habits, and lifestyles that can predispose or lead to chronic pain. Regardless, outside observers may have difficulty understanding pain that does not seem to have an obvious, imminent cause.
THE IGNORANCE: The incomplete understanding of pain by the medical community is compounded by the lack of education of the public regarding pain’s complexity and the drugs, injections, and surgeries that are directed at symptoms. With an “insidious” onset of “invisible” pain, it is no wonder that the public and the medical field look for the quick fix and take more risks; yet, many times there is more to that pain than is obvious to the patient.
As a society, we must use our common sense and work collaboratively at assessing the body’s entire system to decipher causes of chronic, non-cancer pain; otherwise, this PAINDEMIC® will rage on with too many people suffering!
1) International Association for the Study of Pain: http://www.iasp-pain.org/Taxonomy?navItemNumber=576#Pain