(NewsUSA) - The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that more than 100 million people in the U.S. live with pain. For some, the pain will be temporary and will go away on its own. However, you may be among those whose pain has become chronic, lasting several months or more.
While pain is universal, health care professionals are still challenged by its unique and personal nature. Not everyone experiences pain the same way and with the same intensity. The IOM report "Relieving Pain in America" recommends an interdisciplinary approach to treating pain that actively involves the patient in their own care.
"The effectiveness of pain treatments depends greatly on the strength of the clinician-patient relationship; pain treatment is never about the clinician's intervention alone, but about the clinician and patient (and family) working together," according to the IOM.
The best person to speak up on your behalf most often is ? you! Self-advocacy refers to an individual's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs and rights. It involves making informed decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. Whether you are a person with pain or a caregiver, self-advocacy is an essential skill to learn and embrace.
In pain management, self-advocacy is vital. It is about understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals, knowing your legal rights and responsibilities and then communicating these to your family, friends and health care team. This is the first step in your journey to ensure the appropriate diagnosis and treatment for your pain.
Through being your own advocate, or an advocate for someone you care about, you become empowered -- with information, knowledge and self-respect. Health care professionals can also play a key role by supporting their patients' efforts toward self-advocacy.
The website In the Face of Pain (www.IntheFaceofPain.com/advocacy) offers information, resources and materials that can be used to advocate for yourself or a loved one who lives with pain. You can also download the free Handbook for People with Pain that includes tips and tools for effectively communicating with health care providers, as well as a focus on caregiving and clinical trials. Remember, you are your most important advocate.