Metaphor and images should be used alongside traditional medical scales for patients to describe pain

Patients should be able to use images and metaphors alongside traditional medical scales to describe their pain to doctors, a new study says.

Pain cards with pictures to describe feelings and poetry can all help people portray chronic pain more meaningfully, according to the research

Doctors will get a better understanding of the impact of pain — and patients will be better able to express how they feel.

Giving patients other ways of expressing the impact of pain could help to reveal important information which will aid diagnosis or allow doctors to give better support.

Pain charts and visual-linguistic scales were developed during the twentieth century to help doctors and patients measure pain. But asking people to report pain in this way can be challenging for some.

Researchers have said only using scales “displaces the patient’s own story, sidesteps the issue of pain’s private meaning, and disrupts the potential for humane communication between patient and doctor.”

The research, by Nicole Miglio from the University of Milan and the University of Haifa and Jessica Stanier from the University of Exeter, is published in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research.

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