TABLE 4-1 Patient Education: Essential Topics

Essential Patient Education Topic Reason Why the Topic Is Essential
Steps people can take on their own—such as relaxation strategies, exercises, or weight loss—to prevent or obtain relief, help prevent acute pain from progressing to chronic pain, and help prevent chronic pain conditions from worsening To prevent pain from progressing (that is, secondary prevention), to provide quick relief, to empower people to manage their own care as appropriate, and to avoid unnecessary health care expenditures
Differences between pain that is protective (adaptive) and pain that is not protective (maladaptive) To advise people why pain that is not protective should be treated
Reasons why the need for relief is important, especially the possibility that poorly managed acute pain will progress to chronic pain To persuade people to obtain early treatment when necessary
When and how emergency or urgent care should be obtained To encourage seeking immediate intervention, which sometimes can prevent pain from severely worsening
Treatment-related pain (such as postoperative pain) and major categories of available pain therapies, along with the main advantages and disadvantages of each (such as potential benefits and risks of opioids) To enable patients to be informed consumers
Different types of health professionals who may be able to help, and how they may help To provide information about a full range of available services, to promote individual choice
Treatments health insurers may or may not reimburse or may reimburse only partially To equip people to make choices that are cost-effective for them and prepare them for reimbursement problems
Ways in which family, employer, colleagues, friends, school, and other contacts can help prevent the pain from progressing or becoming prolonged To empower patients to marshal support from those who are willing and able to help them
How pain is measured, including the difference between numeric (“subjective,” or intensity) scales and functional (“objective,” or disability) assessments To enable patients to place their pain in a context health professionals will recognize and serve as an informed member of their own health care team
The fact that pain involves a complex mind–body interaction, rather than being strictly physical (biological) or strictly emotional (psychological) To provide patients with an understanding of the need to address both dimensions of their pain and with appropriate, rather than unrealistically high, expectations
The right to pain care, including access to medications that are medically necessary and properly used To alert patients to the possible need to advocate on their own behalf
Self-management techniques (surveyed in Chapter 3) To furnish patients with enough information to obtain some relief on their own and contribute meaningfully to their own care


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