When it comes to managing chronic pain, including lower back pain (LBP), evidence suggests that patients who feel supported through caring, interested practitioners, self-help groups, and a steady stream of helpful information designed to assist them in understanding the source and treatment of their discomfort. These patients are more likely to experience a better treatment outcome and psychological well-being than patients without such systems in place. Educating patients about their condition using on-hand pamphlets, dynamic visual devices, and images can help them to feel empowered and better able to cope with their ailments. Care-givers who take the time to establish a human connection with their LBP patients create a more positive healthcare experience and inspire confidence and improved patient-physician relations. Patients who trust their practitioner report better long-term LBP treatment and maintenance outcomes than those who are unhappy with their care.

Because chronic pain patients face obstacles to efficient and reliable self-management of their conditions, practitioners should endeavor to create an environment conducive to patient empowerment by providing support, easy-to-understand information, and confidence-building support structures that encourage family members, friends, and co-workers to better understand chronic pain and its effect on a patient’s lifestyle and career. By utilizing a combination of educational, biomechanical, psychosocial, and physiological supports, care-givers can help to foster a less-limiting and more proactive approach to the self-management of LBP in their patients.

Barriers to Pain Self-Management

  • Managing chronic pain is time-consuming and requires sustained effort.
  • The discomfort associated with experiencing daily LBP can leave a patient feeling fatigued, discouraged, and unmotivated.
  • Unsupportive clinicians, family members, friends, bosses, and co-workers may leave patients feeling alone, misunderstood, and frustrated with their care.
  • Poor understanding of their condition can make patients fearful, uncertain, or anxious regarding their therapy. They may catastrophize their symptoms or avoid potentially therapeutic exercise because they fear to exacerbate their injury.

Solutions to Patient Self-Empowerment  

  • Educate patients about their condition by using visual aids, dynamic models, and clear language to assist them in differentiating the “self” from the pain.
  • Use cognitive techniques, empathy, active listening, positive motivation, and peer validation to help the patient accept the pain as merely one aspect of a greater self and recognize that the pain need not define or limit life’s potential.
  • Create a supportive, collaborative relationship between the patient, care-giver, family, friends, and co-workers by encouraging open communication and an empathetic response. Provide a safe, therapeutic environment in which healthy, supportive alliances can be formed.

A recent literature review 1 found the most effective chronic pain self-management supports involved effective communication, a clinician-patient relationship that fostered self-discovery, occasional “booster” sessions after an initial course of treatment, and involvement in peer support groups. By practicing person-centric care and taking the time to educate their patients about their condition, practitioners can inspire confidence and empower self-reliance that will assist in the long-term management of chronic pain.

KEYWORDS: self-management strategies for the treatment of chronic lower back pain, managing chronic pain, dynamic visual devices, patient empowerment, improved patient-physician relations

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