Chronic pain patients turn to Internet – not MDs

With too few chronic-pain specialists and family doctors often lacking knowledge about treatment, patients people living with pain are increasingly using the web.

February 11, 2015 22:55
1 minute read.
Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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With too few chronic-pain specialists and family doctors often lacking knowledge about treatment, patients people living with pain are increasingly using the Internet to find information, support, and practical advice for self-management, according to researchers in Beersheba, the UK, and Germany.

Dr. Maya Lavie-Ajayi of Ben-Gurion University’s department of social work, Dr. Sue Ziebland of Oxford, and Dr. Gabriele Lucius-Hoene of the University of Freiburg have just published their findings in the British Journal of Pain.

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Using the web, many patients suffering from chronic pain get more reassurance and encouragement than from physicians and are able to compare experiences and offer advice and support to others. Thus, they wrote, the Internet is “changing the way that people are experiencing illness, although access to relevant and reliable online material is not equally distributed. Those who do not speak one of the handful of dominant languages are less likely to find online experiences that resonate with their own.”

This online use is especially helpful for people who are socially isolated and not mobile due to disability, they said, but added a warning: Some patients might be bombarded with unscientific commercial material and be taken advantage of by unscrupulous commercial interests.

Internet use by chronic-pain patients “may help others to live with their illness and use their personal, social healthcare resources more effectively,” they wrote. While English speakers have access to many more resources than any other language group, those from marginalized communities in developed countries and those in low- and middle-income countries – even if they have access to the Internet – may find it hard to locate online patients’ experiences that resemble their own.

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