This post is a guide for people who are in pain, seeking support and either fearing talking to their doctor or having trouble getting any solution. Either use this to advocate for yourself or have the person advocating for you get familiar with the below phrases.
We started to dig into the problem around drug seeking labels/behavior by bringing light to the hypocrisy of the situation with a little rhyme.
Knowing exactly what to say isn’t easy, but it’s massively important. So the goal was to be able to offer the exact words to say to help you improve the likelihood of getting a more favorable outcome when you are in pain.
Note* This is NOT a hack for making the path to opioids easier. This is a hack for making the environment or relationship between you and your care team more open and receptive to cooperation.
In order to come up with these exact words and phrases, we spent time understanding this situation on both sides of the healthcare environment. However, we wanted to step outside of healthcare to find a more practical solution. So we worked with and learned from experts in relationship dynamics, psychology, influence and linguistics.
Through this research, we have put together three phrases for you to use when you are seeking support for pain.
Note: Use these phrases EXACTLY as written but apply any and all specific details to yourself or your situation to make each phrase work for you.
Exactly What To Say:
What do you know about… managing pain for people who have (_______):
This is the most important of the three phrases. The goal with this phrase is to move your doctors position from one of certainty to one of doubt. Initially most doctors are weary in these situations. Their biases create barriers for you to get help and ultimately lead to the label ‘drug seeker’.
Setting the scene for a new approach: Typically, we starting out by ‘telling’ doctors how we feel… saying things like “doc, I’m in pain” or “I need something for pain.” The doctor then immediately goes into protection mode. Doing this creates the wrong environment for a mutually acceptable outcome. Doctors think they know best, so let them prove it. This is how we do that…
Asking “what do you know about…”, forces doctors to substantiate their opinions with some form of knowledge to backup this decision. Doing this encourages the doctors to admit that their initial opinion was based on insufficient knowledge (even if they only admit to themselves).
Examples For Using This Phrase:
What do you know about managing leg pain for my MS?
What do you know about pain management for Ehlers-Danlos?
What do you know about managing post op pain for my (____) procedure?
What do you know about helping people with Crohn’s manage pain?
As I see it, we have three options…
If you are still getting push back after using phrase 1, this second phrase will help remove assumptions and skepticism on both sides.
Setting the scene for a new approach: If you don’t get an acceptable solution using the first phrase, make sure you don’t immediately move to demanding your ideal solution… again, you don’t want to saying things like “doc, I really need something for my pain.”
You have to be proactive using this phrase. This phrase allows you to present the available options and remove the bias (or perceived bias) of your desired outcome. By placing your ideal outcome as the last of the three, you improve the likelihood of that being the option chosen.
As I see it, we have three options…
We do nothing and I go home with pain.
You can refer me to someone who might know more about managing my pain.
We can discuss the options you’ve considered and select the one that would be best for me today.
How would you feel if…
If the first two phrases are not successful, phrase 3 allows us to address the doctors motivation.
People are motivated by two things… avoiding a loss and acquiring a potential gain. In the pain management game, you (as the person in pain) are purely seen as a risk. This reality means that your doctor has very little motivation to help. According to Nobel Prize winning Economist, Daniel Kahneman, people will work far harder to avoid a potential loss than they will to acquire a potential gain.Asking ‘how would would you feel if’ will encourage your doctor to view a new perspective.
Asking this question won’t feel comfortable the first time or maybe ever. But 60 seconds of discomfort from asking a question is better than 60 hours of discomfort from avoidable pain.
How would you feel if you were able to send me home today with a solution for the pain I’ve been having?
How would you feel if you sent me home today in a lot of pain with no solutions?
How would you feel if you were in pain and you felt that the person you trusted to help, did really want to?
If you know anyone struggling to get help with their pain…share this video with them.