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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Embracing the Journey of Pain

A whole patient approach to pain

Pain, for better or worse, is a universal human experience, one that can transcend physical sensation to encompass emotional, psychological and even spiritual dimensions. For many, chronic pain becomes an unwelcome companion, altering the trajectory of their lives and testing their resilience. Chronic pain can change the way you view a pretty Sunday afternoon, or the possibility of taking care of your new grandbaby. In health care we are tasked not only with alleviating physical discomfort but also with understanding and addressing the broader impact of pain on patients’ well-being. To care for these patients, we must use a holistic approach to patient care, acknowledging the mind, body and spirit.

In the field of orthopedics, joint pain, particularly hip and knee pain, is a prevalent issue affecting many people in our lives. While advancements in medical science have provided many treatments to manage pain, the focus has been on the physical aspect of pain, but we often overlook the emotional and psychological toll it takes on individuals. There is a shift among many physicians, though, with a growing recognition that we need a more comprehensive approach to pain management.

One key aspect of embracing the journey of pain is understanding the unique experiences and challenges faced by each patient.

Pain is subjective, influenced by factors ranging from genetics and lifestyle to past experiences and mental health. Therefore, physicians must adopt a patient-centered approach, taking the time to listen to their patients’ narratives, concerns and goals. By fostering open communication and empathy, health care providers can establish trust and create a supportive environment where patients feel valued and understood.

Moreover, addressing the strain of pain entails looking beyond the physical symptoms to identify and treat underlying psychological and emotional distress. Chronic pain is often accompanied by anxiety, depression and diminished quality of life. Thus, integrating mental health services into orthopedic care becomes imperative. Pain must be navigated with the help of a patient support system, including counselors, to help equip patients with coping strategies to build resilience to the challenges posed by pain.

Furthermore, embracing the journey of pain requires a multifaceted approach to treatment that goes beyond traditional medical interventions. While medications, physical therapy and surgical procedures play a crucial role in managing pain, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, mindfulness meditation and prayer can also offer significant benefits. These holistic modalities not only alleviate physical discomfort but also promote relaxation, stress reduction and overall wellbeing, empowering patients to take an active role in their healing.

As the health care community continues to learn more about pain, it is crucial that we as health care providers change the way we treat pain. We must change the paradigm focused on treating specific symptoms toward moving to a more holistic and compassionate approach centered on the well-being of the whole person. Providers need to shift toward recognizing each unique patient and their distinct set of needs, preferences and aspirations. Treating pain is a collaborative journey, one that is not cured overnight.

Treating patients requires a complete whole-patient approach which focuses not only on the physical symptoms but also the emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions of pain. By listening to patients, offering a variety of treatment modalities, promoting lifestyle modifications, and fostering a culture of compassion and collaboration, physicians can provide comprehensive caren that truly cares for the entire patient, transforming the experience of pain into an opportunity for growth, resilience and healing.

Jeffrey Pearson, M.D. is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in anterior total hip and robotic knee replacement. To schedule an appointment, visit https://orthopedicspecialistsla.com/ or call 318-635-3052.


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