Words That Do No Harm: The Unintended Nocebo Effect of Biochemical Language in Patient-Provider Interactions

Author: Kathryn A. Schopmeyer

Using "the right language" to trigger positive physiological responses in patients is a wellestablished practice based on robust placebo research. The nocebo effect is less studied but should be considered in pain care. Healthcare providers and educators try to help patients understand their painful conditions by describing anatomy or diagnosing common ailments like arthritis, impingement syndrome, or bulging discs. This approach can result in an unintended nocebo effect of increasing anxiety and fear-avoidance behavior. This pop-up course will highlight clinically relevant research focused on language commonly used in the clinic to explain pain from a biomechanical perspective and will outline the pitfalls of this approach. Learners will be presented with alternative word choices to create a therapeutic context. (Recorded at PAINWeek 2016)

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