Unexpectedly reassuring website of the day: WebMD

So, one day last week, I was bored and casually surfing WebMD for non-aspirin headache remedies (I didn’t have any aspirin in the house that day, and the headache was a fairly mild one — not too distracting when compared to those I usually deal with, but still distracting). Because I could not stop clicking on random links (sites like WebMD compel me to), I stumbled upon something called the “Pain Management Questionaire” and decided to complete it.

This was part of my result, on the “Chronic Pain Myths and Facts” segment of the quiz:

“Having chronic pain means that I have a lower tolerance for pain. FALSE. Too many people blame themselves for their chronic pain. They feel like it’s a sign of weakness. But chronic pain is not a moral failing, it’s a medical condition, just like diabetes or heart disease. There’s nothing shameful about it.”

“You also need to resist the urge to tough it out or ignore the pain. For acute pain, this sometimes works. Acute pain often goes away on its own with time as the body heals. But for people in chronic pain, it’s terrible advice. In fact, ignoring chronic pain can allow the problem to worsen and make it harder to control.”

“Pain that becomes chronic can change the way that the body and brain respond to pain. The changes are physiological, not psychological. Just as medication is needed regularly to keep high blood pressure under control, regular treatment usually is needed to keep high pain levels under control.”

Given the fact that too many media and cultural outlets seem to have no problem blaming people for their own health-related issues, disabilities or conditions, this struck me as a nice change. If you want to take the questionnaire, it is located at this link.

About Annaham

Annaham is a feminist with several disabilities who occasionally updates her personal blog. She currently lives in California's Bay Area with her partner and a silly little dog named Winston. She is currently getting her Master’s in Women and Gender Studies; her research interests include disability and cultural/social attitudes surrounding it, the body, gender, nontraditional media, art of all kinds, and social equity. You can reach her by emailing Annaham at disabledfeminists dot com.

5 thoughts on “Unexpectedly reassuring website of the day: WebMD

  1. That is good! I’m struck, however, by how often that whole “Your pain is real and important! Do something!” is followed by “You should get off painkillers, join a support group, and start antidepressants NOW! Oh, and get some fresh air and exercise!”

    I was about to say “not in this case” – only the recommendations the site came up with for me did include seeing a psych counsellor and exercising, complete with cookie-cutter advice that exercise would reduce pain and improve well-being, which is eight kinds of not true at all for me. So, hmmmmm.

    There was also a paragraph of orders headed “Confront substance abuse”, though the quiz had no questions on substance abuse. But at least the results don’t drag out the old “you must get off opiates” line – this is a huge point in favour!

    I am bothered by one other aspect of the quiz. It instructed me that my “well-being score” was 10/50, simply because my disability has affected my social life, work life, and ability to do housework “very much”. That doesn’t mean that my well-being is crap, it doesn’t mean that I’m feeling ground down and alone and helpless (which were the other words they used in that para): it just means that my disability has affected my social life, work life, and ability to do housework. I’m kinda bothered by the assumption that a particular functional status equates to a low “well-being”.

  2. It is extremely refreshing to see something, anything that actually says “HAI! YOUR PAIN IS REAL AND NOT YOUR FAULT! YOU DON’T JUST NEED TO BUCK UP, CAMPER!” but without taking the quiz, I can’t comment further. But wow, that is encouraging. Not progress, but encouraging.

  3. That made me tear up. I’m in pain right now, waiting for the eeeeeeeeeeevil opiate to kick in, heating pad on, being good.

    I could just feel all warm and fuzzy about that, or go and take the quiz. I could post this and then later come back and do it. So I’ll do it now.

    Well in the question about therapy for treating the pain has me confused – I’ve done every single one. (Acupuncture in late ’06 – too expensive, but interesting.) I checked all.

    Has the pain affected my social life? I put it at none, because I don’t want a social life!

    I wish they separated work from home life. I have more responsibilities in work (school). But it has had a change on my relationship with my family.

    Okay, done!

    Health – get a diagnosis. I thought of ticking off each diagnosis we’ve floated out, but didn’t.

    Well-being – “eat well” “confront substance abuse” EXCUSE ME.

    And I got a score. Why? It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know – but I saw the bit at the top of the page… after being told everything else.

  4. Lauredhel:
    Yeah, what you said. Bingo.
    I took the quiz, too. On one hand, very affirming of how severe my pain is, on the other hand, suggestions generally not helpful and some downright wrong-o (like u: exercise is totally contraindicated for me). But it does have me reconsidering asking my doc abt muscle relaxants, which I’d been pondering, in case it might help w/my pain.
    On that note, re: medications. Hard not to notice how this site (oh-so-rare on the web!) is pushing allllll kinds of meds, and then, just coincidentally, the site is sponsored by pharma, with ads, etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m on a zillion meds and need them, but it does make me question the bias/conclusions of the info, as usual.
    Also, I thought their list of conditions was strange. For example, although in the “where it hurts” section they include head, they did not list migraines or headaches as a diagnosis! Neither did they list many other disabilities/dx, including three that I have that cause chronic pain. Again, I think this relates to their targeting/advertising. Probably on the migraine page (just a guess cuz I’m too tired to go search), they talk about migraine meds separately.

    Oh, one last q to anyone who wants to answer: How DO you deal with that 0-10 pain scale?? I almost never know how to answer, esp. for something like this where the asker doesn’t know my baseline. Is this 0-10 for me? i.e., is it comparative (on a bad day, good day, compared to last month, etc.) or is it compared to what I think a “normal” person has for avg daily pain? (Would that be zero? I have no idea.) Compared to how it is when I’m not on pain meds?? Everyone I talk to who has chronic pain finds this scale a puzzler (and often, an irritant). The only time it’s easy to answer is if I’m at a 9 or 10 (which would be why I’m in the ER, hello), but otherwise…?

  5. Sharon – I hate that scale so much!

    I usually say “for a normal person, it would be a 20. For me… 6 or 7 right now.”

    I understand it’s important, but it’s so hard to pin it down.

    And is it based on the pain or how you react to the pain? When I first had 10 pain (kidney stones), I was terrified and threw up and couldn’t sit still or think and it was horrible.

    Now I have pain above that level on a regular basis, and I can act like I’m pain free – carry on a conversation, read, sleep.

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