Doctors should avoid word pain: expert

Doctors should avoid word pain: expert

Sarah Wiedersehn | AAP | May 15 2017

Doctors have been advised against using the word pain unless a patient mentions it first.

Just mentioning the word increases the likelihood that a anxious patient will experience pain, claims Dr Allan Cyna - an Obstetric and Paediatric Anaesthetist at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital.

He says the power of suggestion can be harmful to a patient.

"Suggestibility increases when patients are highly anxious or distressed. It is also increased in pregnancy and in children," he said.

Other negative words doctors should avoid are sting, hurt, itch and worry.

Traditionally, doctors have operated on the belief that warning patients is helpful.

"The evidence shows that describing things in negative terms increases anxiety and pain and negativity interpretations of perceptions," he said.

It's better to explain the process of a medical procedure, rather than predicting a perception that "may or may not take place".

"It's often more useful just to give someone a meaning," he said.

"The idea behind this is not to not say things, it is to say them in a therapeutic way, rather than an unhelpful way.

Dr Cyna will talk about the power of suggestion in the medical profession at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) annual scientific meeting on Tuesday.

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