ing decisions about options for preventing or managing pain. There is ample opportunity to educate people who will undergo elective surgery or outpatient procedures about the likelihood and magnitude of acute pain they may experience and to inform them about the availability of methods to prevent or relieve this pain. Postoperative patients surveyed about their information needs placed a high value on information about pain and pain management plans following surgery and discharge (Kastanias, 2009).
With respect to chronic pain, the committee believes education for patients should encompass such topics as those listed in Table 4-1. While the table addresses strictly patient education, families, too, should be seen as an appropriate target for educational efforts. Education for people with chronic pain should not be a onetime effort; as pain progresses, as treatments have greater or dwindling effects, as new treatments become available, the educational process should continue. One advantage of education is that it can enable people with pain to handle many pain-related problems themselves, without having to rely on medical care.
People with chronic pain have substantial unmet educational needs. For example, while three-fourths of people with chronic pain who visited an emergency department reported a desire for information about pain treatment options or referrals to pain specialists, only half reported receiving such information (Todd et al., 2010). There is evidence that appropriate education can improve satisfaction with care and outcomes of people with pain (Merelle et al., 2008).
Sometimes, especially in cases of severe persistent pain, a person may have to learn that certain limitations and discomforts appear to be permanent. Someone facing the prospect of lifelong discomfort, disability management, and self-care challenges will require emotional support along with accurate information. The prospect of a permanent reduction in health status and quality of life is not unique to persistent pain. It also confronts people who have other chronic diseases (such as diabetes, asthma, end-stage renal disease, multiple sclerosis, and some cancer and heart disease conditions), and the rich experience of patient education about these other diseases can be mined to improve strategies and expand the supply of materials for patient education about pain. Patient education programs and materials, like treatment choices (Chapter 3), need to be age-appropriate, geared to the person’s and family’s level of comprehension and general health literacy, culturally and linguistically competent, and supported by timely opportunities to ask questions and receive authoritative and useful answers. Families and other personal caregivers deserve information about how to obtain stress relief—including, in the case of people who are terminally ill, respite care—because they, too, are part of the patient’s milieu and need to be able to remain in peak form. Given the importance of patient education on pain, it would be useful to have educational modules—available through different media, such as Internet links (which could also benefit clinicians), pamphlets, and audio connections translated into various languages or geared to different health literacy levels or age groups—that could be selected for individual patients.