Spanish pain brochure explains symptoms

Good communication leads to proper diagnosis

In response to an increasing demand for Spanish-language resources to educate Hispanic Americans about all aspects of chronic pain, the Baltimore, MD-based American Pain Foundation has produced a free brochure available in Spanish and English titled "Explain Your Pain."

The brochure helps patients engage in productive dialogue with their health care providers.

"Explain Your Pain" is a resource to address the cultural and language barriers that prevent Hispanic Americans from seeking help with pain management. According to Ricardo Vallejo, MD, director of research at Millennium Pain Center in Bloomington, IL, and a spokesperson for the American Pain Foundation, many Hispanics are taught that complaining about pain is a sign of weakness. They often wait to report pain, and when pain becomes chronic, it impacts the psyche of the patient, adds Vallejo.

The American Pain Foundation describes chronic pain as ongoing or recurrent pain that lasts beyond the usual course of an acute illness or injury, or more than 3-6 months, and negatively affects a person's well-being. If untreated or undertreated, pain can negatively impact a person's quality of life and make daily activities difficult.

Tools to improve communication

In addition to educating Hispanics on the importance of reporting pain early to manage it effectively, tools for communication between patients and providers are needed.

"Explain Your Pain" gives an outline of a body on which the patient can shade areas where pain occurs; a 0 to 5 happy/sad face pain chart; a pain checklist with descriptive words; and a pain questionnaire.

Vallejo says the list of terms in the checklist such as "shooting," "tingling," "numb," "deep," or "sharp," translated into Spanish, puts the symptoms into words that help physicians discover the nature of the pain, which leads to a proper diagnosis and treatment.

"You can determine if it is neuropathic pain coming from nerve entrapment or some other condition," explains Vallejo.

The patient/health care provider communication is important because a magnetic resonance image (MRI) or X-ray does not explain how a patient feels pain, he says. Up to 67% of patients experiencing pain can have a normal MRI, says Vallejo. If a person's car does not start, the mechanic doesn't ask for a photo of the engine to make the appropriate repair, he adds. In health care, imaging is not the best way to determine the source of the pain either, Vallejo maintains. Instead, a thorough patient history, physical examination, and sometimes the help of images are needed. However, most important is the patient's description of the pain, says Vallejo.

"Understanding the nature of the pain can help the physician make the proper diagnosis," he says. "With the proper diagnosis, a treatment plan can be established that is specific for the individual."


To download the free brochure "Explain Your Pain" or obtain more information contact:

• American Pain Foundation, 201 N. Charles St., Suite 710, Baltimore, MD 21201-4111. Tel: (888) 615-7246. The brochure can be downloaded at (English) or (Spanish).