good article-- how words fail to describe pain/symptoms

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Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2005
Total Posts : 1338
   Posted 7/8/2008 8:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Slate has a good book review about how difficult in can be to describe pain and other symptoms of chronic illness and how doctors will interpret things differently based on the words we use. This is something I've always struggled with because I never describe things in the way doctors expect and some docs (mostly ER) play down my pain until they see the CT or other test result showing the reason for it.

Here's the link and a short excerpt:

. . . Manguso pushes beyond the familiar confrontation between doctor and patient to explore the linguistic confusion at the heart of the power struggle. The root conflict is over whose version of events will be the dominant narrative. When Manguso reports "a spot of numbness on her abdomen" to her doctor, she is informed that her symptom is clinically impossible, since her disease is characterized by numbness not of the abdomen but of the extremities. She is told she must have indigestion ("gastric unrest") and is treated with an antacid. How it is that she had mistaken indigestion for insensateness is also tied up with a tidy explanation: "t was declared that since I was used to reporting all symptoms as numbness, I was feeling heartburn and reporting it as numbness." Channeling the emphatic voice of the doctors who discount a sensation she knows to be real, Manguso vents a writer's frustration at having her words for her somatic reality dismissed.
This incident exposes the conundrum at the core of nearly every memoir of illness: Pain is a subjective state that can be understood only from the inside. Its symptoms are unobservable—and thus essentially unknowable—to all but the person enduring them. The absolute interiority of pain explains, at least in part, why it is such a difficult state to convey . . .
Currently in remission!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 1642
   Posted 7/9/2008 8:48 AM (GMT -6)   

I agree, it is hard to explain what hurts. I feel a good Doctor will keep questioning us until he/she gets it.

Now only if I can explain to my rheumy how painful my back is. Tylenol does not touch it!



Karen (Karendee)

Diagnosed w/ Crohn’s Disease  March 2007 On 150mg Azathioprine (generic Imuran), Pentasa, & Entocort Switching to Humira June 2008 will wean off Pentasa and Entocort

Diagnosed w/  Fibromyalgia May 2007 also on Soma - Also on Prilosec for reflux.



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