Top 10 Words to Use and Lose

Words do much more than covey the facts; words pain pictures.  The conversations surrounding pain are already laden with emotion.  Emotionally charged words with the nuance of judgment, accusation or blame disempower; they are best avoided.  Emotionally neutral descriptive words empower; use these.

Situation: You want to describe the person living with pain.

Use these words: Person living with pain, person with pain, person with arthritis.

Avoid these words:  Pain sufferers, pain patient, suffers from pain, arthritis patient.

Situation: You want to describe the medication treatment plan.

Use these words: Medications, opioids, pain relievers, analgesics

Avoid these words linked to illicit drugs:  Drugs, narcotics, pain relievers

Situation: You want to describe the tools that support for the activities of daily living.

Use these words: Person with disability, uses a wheelchair

Avoid these words:  Disabled,  confined to a wheelchair, handicapped, crippled

Situation: You hear your sister describe your mother as a pain sufferer. 

Use these words: “Mom’s more than just her pain.  Let’s describe her as a person who lives with pain.”

Situation: A newspaper article describes ”narcotics use in pain patients. “

Contact the journalist and say, “Thanks for your great article drawing attention to chronic pain as a public health issue.   You would be doing a public service by using neutral language.  Instead of “pain patient,” which reduces a person to their pain, try “person living with pain.”  Instead of narcotics, which implies street drugs, try opioids.  I know this seems like nitpicking; however people living with pain are often judged.”

© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD.  All rights reserved.