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Terminology of chronic pain: the need to "level the playing field"

Authors Peppin J, Schatman M

Received 1 November 2015

Accepted for publication 9 December 2015

Published 27 January 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 23—24


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Minal Joshi

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Robinson

John F Peppin,1 Michael E Schatman2

1Center for Bioethics, Pain Management and Medicine, St Louis, MO, 2US Pain Foundation, Middletown, CT, USA

Pain medicine as a separate subspecialty is in its infancy, only fairly recently being recognized as such by the American Board of Medical Specialities.1 As it continues to find its way in the ever-changing world of medicine, terminology becomes an important consideration. Terms carry tremendous impact: for example, when a patient is told he or she has “cancer”, the impact emotionally will undoubtedly make further explanation difficult. To patients and their families, the word “cancer” has the effect of being hit with an emotional baseball bat. In the pain world, there was a recent, albeit failed, attempt to change the name of pain specialists to “algiatrists”.2 It was thought this would help define what such specialists did as opposed to other specialties. Accordingly, terminology matters, yet little attention has been paid to the terms we use to categorize and diagnose our patients. “Chronic cancer pain” and “chronic noncancer pain” are replete in the literature; however, the distinction here is actually obscure. A patient with pain from a cancer etiology has no different physiology than a patient with pain of noncancer etiologies.

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