Keep an Open Mind When Working with Doctors for Chronic Pain

  • Bias: a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation. Your doctor may not be able to objectively consider all of the issues that are affecting you. For various reasons, bias can seep into the subconscious mind and taint the decision making process. As scientists, doctors are supposed to be trained to maintain objectivity; however, to error is human. And erroneous thought is always possible when humans are trying to solve a problem. Thus, you need to be aware of the partiality that may be coloring your treatment plan for chronic pain.


    Obesity: more than average fatness. Some doctors might be prejudice against those with obesity. Although obesity is associated with chronic pain, doctors should not blame everything on weight and sweep real problems under the XXL shirt. If you recognize this bias affecting how you are treated, just say, "Hey, I know that I am obese. I'd like to do something about it with your help, but I would also like you to help me relieve my pain as well. Let's work together." No doctor can ignore that statement. If he/she does, walk out the door.

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    Uneducated: not having a good education. Some doctors might have a preconception about your level of intelligence. Educational level might be one factor for treatment outcome because health literacy and explanations are needed to be able understand the diagnosis and treatment. But if your doctor does not think you are capable of understanding, then he/she may not take the time to explain things to you. If you recognize this one-sided thought process, just say, "Hey, I may not have the same education as you, but the least you can do is try to explain things in plain English to me from one adult to another." Any doctor should be able to do that. If not, walk out the door.


    Addiction: being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically and/or physically habit-forming and causing harm. Some doctors might not be objective in considering all the issues about pain in someone who also has an addiction. Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are just a few of the addictive substances that plague America. But, these issues do not have to adversely taint the decision making process. Instead, the addictions need to be acknowledged and discussed in a rational manner. For example, talking about how tobacco use relates to a painful condition can help put you on the right path towards feeling better. Addicts with pain should not be disregarded. If your doctor disregards you, walk out the door.


    Ethnicity: an ethnic quality or affiliation resulting from racial or cultural ties. Some doctors might be slanted against a certain sector of the population. Looking beyond the cultural differences might be too difficult for some individuals. Doctors should be unbiased and non-prejudice to race, creed, and color. Yet, ethnic slurs are still whispered from time to time in some hospitals, emergency rooms, and even doctor's offices. Beware; your doctor may be judging your by your cover. You could try to diffuse the situation by saying, "Yes, my ethnic background might be influencing my painful experience, but we need to find out what is causing the pain in the first place." If an open dialogue free of prejudice is not going to occur, then walk out the door.


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    Sex: either of the two categories (male or female) into which most organisms are divided. Some doctors will roll their eyes when a person of a certain sex walks in the clinic with pain. Pegged as "too emotional" or "too sensitive", some people with chronic pain are not treated fairly because the doctor is biased against sexual differences. Again, you could try to deflect the prejudice by saying, "Hey, I cannot help the fact that I am a woman (or man). The fact that I am built differently than a man (or woman) might be influencing how I feel. So, let's look at all the issues objectively please." Or again, you could fire your biased doctor.


    Money: functions as legal tender. Money does make the world go around and unfortunately provides a serious source of partiality for some doctors. Has your doctor ever tried to sell you something? Has your doctor referred you to a service like an x-ray, test, or therapy provided in the same office? If so, then your doctor might be recommending treatment based on his/her financial incentive. Not always, but this problem is real and could potentially be affecting your treatment plan. When in doubt, ask for the objective evidence supporting your doctor's advice and just beware that financial incentives color many issues.


    Impartial: free from undue bias or preconceived opinions. Healthcare would be better if completely free from bias. Unfortunately, prejudice still exists in this real world and doctors are still only human. Bias can be based on many potential sources including: physique, education level, habits, ethnicity, sex, and money. So in reality, your doctor might not be free from preconceived opinions. If you think your doctor is biased, try to diplomatically confront the slanted opinion with an open dialogue. If your doctor remains closed-minded, then walk out the door because closed minds and hearts do not foster good solutions.


Published On: January 03, 2010