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How a Kind and Caring Doctor Can Help Boost Pain Relief


January 28, 2016 Posted in: Personal Health , Article

Remember when you were a child? A parent's reassuring hug (and a dab of soothing ointment) helped make the pain from a minor injury go away. New research suggests a doctor's support and compassion may play a similar role when it comes to pain relief. Dignity Health recently asked The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education to review of a number of different studies on the effects of kindness and found that a doctor's kindness -- the ability to empathize, communicate, and listen effectively -- leads to better pain relief outcomes for patients.

Quality Communication Improves Pain

The study included a review of published clinical research on how delivering health care with kindness affects patients with pain. A key takeaway is that effective communication has a positive influence on pain relief. When a doctor reviews a patient's medical history, they should ask questions not only about the physical aspects of the pain, but also about the patient's feelings and emotions. Just as important is that patients feel like they're active participants in their care and are involved in treatment decisions.

For example, one study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that when physicians educated patients about anesthesia and post-surgery pain relief options, the patients reported less pain, needed less pain medication, and had shorter hospital stays than patients who had less interaction with their physicians. The same study showed that patients who fully described their headache experience to their doctor were three times more likely to report headache cessation than patients who did not.

Caring Behavior Changes Patients' Perceptions

Health professionals can shape the way patients think and feel about their pain or treatment by providing an environment of caring, kindness, and respect. A study from The Spine Journal showed that patients with back pain who perceived high empathy from their doctors experienced pain relief and felt better about their care. In a separate study from the British Medical Journal, patients with irritable bowel syndrome who were treated by a warm, friendly doctor experienced less pain and better overall improvement than patients with limited or no interaction with their doctor.

Just a Smile Away

Kind treatment from a doctor is always important, but especially so when you're in pain. Scientific research supports the positive effects of kindness and compassion on improving pain relief and other health conditions. So the next time you need to see a doctor, understand that their bedside manner can be just as important as any pain pill.

For more information about compassion and health care, visit The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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