Fluency in Pain Communication

One day we arrived in the land of chronic pain, there was a whole new language. We were asked to rate our pain, describe it, and oh we didn't know it, but our word choices, facial expressions, and ways we hold ourselves are always being judged to see if we are faking, exaggerating, or better yet. Yes, our ability to communicate our pain can easily be under the microscope. It is also extremely difficult to describe sensations. Have you ever tried to truly describe what an itch feels like. Pain communication also differs depending on the setting, whether you are talking with your medical provider, family, or social acquaintances.

Fluency in Pain Communication with Providers

  1. How can you make the invisible experience of pain more visible for your medical providers?
  2. How can you describe the intensity, agony, and impact of the pain you experience clearly and concisely?
  3. How can you show compassion for your provider?
  4. What questions do you have for your medical provider? How can you seek the medical rationale?


Fluency in Pain Communication with Family and Friends

  1. Social Comparisons: When are you in situations where social comparisons are more likely to occur? Can you anticipate for these and plan ahead to handle them in an effective way? 
  2. "0-10": How do you use the 0-10 scale? What doe the anchors mean to you? Do you separate intensity from agony?
  3. The Pain: How do you talk about the pain? How can you separate it from your sense of self? 
  4. Local Dialects: How do you label the sensations of pain? Its intensity or bothersomeness? How do you talk about the pain with people who are close to you or people you just met? 
  5. Everyday Stigmatizing Moments: What social situations or questions catch you off guard? How do you handle the question, "How are you? 
  6. Ready Made Responses: Do you know how you'd respond to these questions? Write your responses and practice them, so you can always have them in your back pocket. 

Expectations and Scheduling Flexibility

Having a life that is affected by pain also means having relationships and social plans that are affected by pain. When we have clearer expectations of our self, others with pain, and others without pain we can reduce the frustrations that arise out of unrealistic expectations or unspoken and mistaken assumptions. As people with pain we recognize that everyone's pain is different and that for many of us the variability of pain can be day to day even differ morning and night. This variability and unpredictability can strain relationships. When we address the mistaken assumptions that might come out of mis-communications regarding scheduling changes we can build stronger relationships with greater communication.

Expectations and Scheduling Flexibility

  1. Expectations of Self: What do you expect from yourself? Does this match reality? 
  2. Expectations of Others with Pain: What do you expect from others with pain? How does that compare with your expectations for yourself when your pain is present? 
  3. Expectations of Others without Pain: What do you expect from others who don't have chronic pain? 
  4. Scheduling Flexibility: How can you improve communication about your experience of pain? How can you help others have a cleaner idea of what to expect from you? How can you plan for the "unplannable"?

Go to Week 7

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