Everyone has some degree of difficulty dealing with pain. Some have quite a high threshold and their pain appears quite manageable, even at degrees that might be debilitating to some folks. Other individuals have low pain thresholds and require immediate attention for pain that others might deem tolerable. Still, there is another group of individuals that catastrophize their pain, and this is the group for which patient education is essential.
What is pain catastrophizing? Sounds like something pretty serious, doesn’t it? Well, it IS serious for the person doing the catastrophizing. This term refers to the tendency to describe a pain experience in more exaggerated terms than the average person, to ruminate on it more (e.g., “I kept thinking ‘this is terrible'”), and/or to feel more helpless about the experience (“I thought it was never going to get better”).”1 People who report a large number of such thoughts during a pain experience are more likely to rate the pain as more intense than those who report fewer such thoughts, scientists and researchers hypothesize.
As a medical professional, you may have read the material by Michael J. L. Sullivan et al on this topic, and perhaps you’ve perused the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, which indicates how the catastrophizer views his or her pain. In most cases, the statements on the scale (such as “I wonder whether something serious may happen”) indicate the individual’s inability to put their pain in perspective. In addition, researchers note that those who catastrophize their pain often experience a marked increase in that pain.
While pain catastrophizing is a broad topic and a very serious one for those who simply can’t deal with their pain, medical practitioners should attempt to do their part in regards to easing the minds of patients who experience catastrophizing at any level. We do this by putting our patients at ease, and we put them at ease by educating them about their condition.
As a professional that works with the human spine, you no doubt consistently encounter clients who are indeed in pain. If you are a chiropractor, in particular, chances are that the majority of your patients are experiencing pain of some sort. That’s why they’re seeing you. You may have already identified individuals who seem to catastrophize their pain…and it is those persons that truly need to be educated about the workings of the human spine via tools such as Dynamic Disc Designs’ (ddd) many 3D human spine models.
Putting the mind of a pain sufferer at ease is not an easy task, but through the use of high-quality, accurate models such as ddd’s Professional LxH model, you can do your best to fully explain the particulars of that patient’s pain, including why it is happening and how it can be fixed. A catastrophizer needs to know that, with proper treatment, their pain is indeed able to be addressed and that there is an end in sight as far as suffering is concerned. When this person knows a specific “how” and “why” in regards to their pain, the weight lifted off their shoulders is tremendous.
Take some more time to study the particulars of pain catastrophizing and consider the purchase of the Academic LxH or other Dynamic Disc Design models that will truly allow even your most challenging patients to leave your office knowing there is a solution.
1 Van Damme, S., Crombez, G., Bijttebier, P., Goubert, L., & Houdenhove, B. V. (2001). A confirmatory factor analysis of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale: invariant factor structure across clinical and non-clinical populations. International Association for the Study of Pain, 96(3), 319-324. Retrieved October 10, 2013, from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395901004638