The language that clinicians use for back pain – Confusing for patient

In a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1 researchers looked at the language health care professionals use when communicating back pain to patients.

In this study, professional’s (Chiropractors, General Practitioners, Osteopaths and Physiotherapists) conversations were recorded and analyzed word-by-word.

Here is some of what they found, although you can read it directly from the horse’s mouth if you read here.

  1. Non-specific low back pain (participants had not heard of that term before and thought it perhaps meant: “non-existent“, “that spells referral to me“, “you would feel it all over really“)
  2. Acute (participants were not familiar with this term)
  3. Chronic (most thought this was a terminal condition-no way out)
  4. Muscle Weakness  (participants were unfamiliar in the context of low back pain)
  5. Instability (participants were unfamiliar with this term)
  6. Neurological involvement (One participant thought this term meant “Something’s going wrong in your head.”)
  7. Trapped nerve (this was very common but not understood well)
  8. Wear and Tear (also very commonly used by professionals and participants interpreted as the back “wearing out” or “being worn out” by age, work or sport)
  9. Arthritis (participants thought It’ll get worse…you’re diagnosed with that as you get older it’s going to get worse and more painful … There’s not a lot of treatment for it that works.)
  10. Exercise and activity (many participants were also a little confused about what this meant specifically)

The results of this study peel back the underlying reason why there are focused groups, like PainScience, in the drive to improve the language health care professionals use in the talk of back and neck pain.

Doctor-patient communication is only as good as the language used by the doctor in clinical settings. Unfortunately, most of the terms used in this study were misunderstood and had negative emotional overtones.

This is at the crux of WHY at Dynamic Disc Designs we have worked hard to help the clinician minimize the unintentional perception of these misunderstood words. We have lessened the need to use excessive back pain words and have empowered the doctor and patient with realistic models to improve communication of back pain in a dynamic and realistic way. Why risk saying the wrong thing when you can just show the patient where and why it hurts and what you plan on doing about it. Simple tools so you don’t have to search for the words….and risk unintentional negative emotional responses from those you are trying to communicate with about solutions.

language, back pain, patient education
Communicating with accurate models can help reduce the potential for misunderstood language.