One of the most difficult symptoms to deal with is chronic pain. Millions of dollars are invested every year in the ongoing search for ways to treat pain effectively. Countless drugs have been developed. Therapies that try to champion the mind’s ability to control symptoms in the body have been exhaustively explored. But here’s one other strategy for pain management that you might not have considered: more effective communication with your doctor.
Researchers from the University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia set out to understand and reduce what they called the “high prevalence of acute and chronic pain” plaguing the country. They noted that there is a large percentage of patients for whom treatments simply don’t seem to work. Although they acknowledged that medications, exercise, or cognitive-behavioral treatments could help patients deal with chronic pain symptoms, many choose not to participate in these therapies. Medical experts call this state non-compliance.
What makes people resist treatments that might ultimately help them? Health psychologists have tagged three different behaviors: the health belief model, the self-regulation theory, and the theory of planned behavior. Let’s take a look at these three behaviors because they’re important in understanding why you might opt out of a treatment that could help you. They may sound similar but they’re all slightly different in their focus. Ask yourself if you carry any of these beliefs with you when you try a treatment.
The health belief model states that you’ll try a treatment if you believe that:
- Your health problem can be avoided
- By adopting a certain treatment you can avoid developing the symptoms of a health condition
- You can comfortably and successfully adapt to a recommended treatment
The self-regulation theory states that a patient must be interested in improving their own health by:
- Adopting behaviors to feel better and monitoring and adapting these behaviors as needed
- Discounting short-term desires in favor of long-term gains in recovery
- Understanding all the factors that come into play when dealing with a health condition.
The theory of planned behavior states that your actions are guided by three considerations:
- Your beliefs about the consequences of your behaviors (i.e. if you quit smoking you believe that you will be healthier)
- Your beliefs about the expectations of others (do your friends or family think a health intervention will be helpful? Do they think you can successfully achieve a health behavior?)
- Your control beliefs (what obstacles do you think are in your way? What do you believe will help your success in adopting a clinical intervention?)
These three health behaviors can help to make or break the success of any treatment you try. What is the one thing most likely to derail a positive attitude when trying to adopt a treatment protocol suggested by your doctor, others, or even yourself? According to the University of Sydney researchers, good doctor-patient communication can determine whether or not you stick with a treatment and how successful that treatment will ultimately be.
Although treating chronic pain is challenging, establishing good communication with your health care provider can help you improve your chances for recovery by clearing up any doubts or concerns you might have about yourself and the treatment you’re about to undertake.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Butow, P., et al., “The impact of communication on adherence in pain management,” Pain. August 5, 2013.
Dwamena, F., et al., “Interventions for providers to promote a patient-centred approach in clinical consultations,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. December 12, 2012.
“Health Belief Model,” University of Twente web site; http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/theory%20clusters/health%20communication/health_belief_model.doc/, last accessed August 15, 2013.