Patient Information Resources

Centre for Orthopaedics
Suite 10-33/34/35 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore, 329563, Singapore
Ph: (65) 6684 5828
Fax: (65) 6684 5829

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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I'm an adult woman with children. I have an illness that causes pain much of the time. Some days are good, others are not so good. My husband just doesn't understand when I'm hurting and he says that I just need to go on as if I don't have it. I've met others who also don't seem to understand. Yet, there are people who do. Why do some people believe me and not others?

How people perceive pain has been something that researchers have been wondering about for many, many years. It's not surprising that it's such a puzzle because even the people with pain themselves don't always agree on its severity. For example, you can have someone who breaks a bone in their foot and continues to walk. The pain is there but not severe enough to make the person stop. You can have another person with the same break who is in tremendous pain. People who don't have pain may underestimate or overestimate the pain that someone else is feeling. Because people who have pain act differently depending on many things, those who are observing you can only rely on their own experiences and what you tell them or show them. A recent study has shown that if a person tends to fear the worst about their own pain, they will likely overestimate how much pain someone else is in. The same study showed that if the person in pain is a woman, she is given more leeway for the pain. Interestingly, a third finding was the context that the person observed. For example, if you had pain and had to lift an object, if you lifted it awkwardly - away from your body - you would be rated as having more pain than if you lifted the exact same object, but in a safer and easier manner, right next to your body, bending your elbows. All this to say that people, usually unknowingly, put their own ideas of pain into their perceptions of pain on others.


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