Pain Awareness Month

September 4, 2018

September is Pain Awareness Month, which provides outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of pain and pain management.

Pain is not always a visible symptom. Sometimes, it may be hard to diagnose or understand. For patients, it may be hard to communicate about the pain that they feel. Pain can change, move, or disappear only to return.

In some cases, pain is a symptom that can go untreated. But it may be a symptom of a rare disease or illness that is difficult to diagnose. That’s why it’s important to communicate about pain and to provide the resources necessary to help educate healthcare providers, patients, and the public about pain.

We spoke with MicroMass Behaviorists Neala Havener and Kathy Moriarty to learn more about undiagnosed pain and how we can understand pain better as a society.

What does pain awareness mean for the public, healthcare providers, and patients?
Neala Havener: Scientifically, pain is a unique experience. We are just beginning to understand what is happening at a neurological level when someone experiences pain and to what degree. Regardless of the quantification and specification of pain, as a society, we need to be more understanding of those experiencing pain, recognizing the common humanity of the experience.

Pain awareness is important to society because it is real, and it does impact so many people as a byproduct of their conditions. Pain has been stigmatized with the rise of the opioid crisis – as people seeking help for pain are now, more than ever, seen as seeking unnecessary treatment.

What should people understand about pain associated with disease?
NH: People experiencing pain associated with a disease are not weak or complainers. The pain is real to them, and just like other symptoms or side effects, we should work to address those to improve quality of life.

How can understanding pain help a patient population and build disease awareness?
Kathy Moriarty: Illness and disease manifest differently. Sometimes, there are visible manifestations, such as scars or loss of hair. But sometimes, disease is invisible to other people, which can make it hard for them to understand or appreciate a patient’s challenges or struggles. A patient experiencing pain might feel lonely or downplay their experience because it’s harder to show the intangible pain. As a symptom, pain is as important as any other symptom, and deserves the same attention and care.

For healthcare providers, it may require an extra step to remember to ask about pain, since it can’t always be perceived. But could go a long way in helping their patients feel better about their relationship and overall care.

Not every patient receives the treatment that they need because of miscommunications and a lack of awareness. That’s why bringing awareness to pain and pain management is important. Providing patients with the proper tools to communicate about their symptoms and creating bridges of conversation between healthcare providers and patients is a part of what we do at MicroMass. When patients are able to share their full story, better treatment outcomes are achievable, and the relationship between pain and diagnoses becomes clearer.