Living With Pain? You Can Be Your Own Advocate

Pain does not discriminate. It touches almost everyone at one time or another. It is invisible, and cannot be detected by a test or scan. For many, it goes away after a short time, but for others, it is all-consuming and can make life intolerable.

According to a 2011 report, “Relieving Pain in America,” conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), approximately 100 million adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain—a condition defined by pain that lasts longer than six months and persists despite medical treatment. The IOM acknowledges that everyone experiences pain differently. The report recommends an interdisciplinary approach that actively involves the patient in their own care.

“The effectiveness of pain treatments depends greatly on the strength of the clinician-patient relationship; pain treatment is never about the clinician’s intervention alone, but about the clinician and patient (and family) working together,” according to the IOM.

While many health care centers, hospitals and even doctor’s offices have patient advocates that serve as an invaluable link between the patient and the provider, the best advocate can often be yourself.

Self-advocacy is an essential and necessary skill when it comes to managing your pain and health care. To do so means understanding and identifying your own needs, recognizing what is acceptable (and what isn’t), knowing your legal rights and communicating these to your family, friends, and health care team.

Self-advocacy is about empowerment—through knowledge, information and self-respect. To this point, health care professionals can help their patients by supporting their efforts.

For more help and tips on being your own advocate, visit In The Face of Pain at www.inthefaceofpain/advocacy. The website offers information and resources that can be used to help you be an advocate for yourself or a loved one who lives with chronic pain. The free Handbook for People with Pain includes tips and tools for effectively communicating with your (or your family’s) clinician, as well as focusing on caregiving and clinical trials.

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