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Why using the terminology of ‘pain catastrophising’ can be harmful

Patients experiencing chronic pain think the term belittles how they are affected

Patients experiencing chronic pain think the term belittles how they are affected

  • Chronic pain can adversely affect every aspect of someone’s life, including sleep and the ability to work
  • Increasing numbers of clinicians believe labelling someone a catastrophiser drives anxiety and can inhibit function
  • Stanford University School of Medicine is leading a global project to find terminology that is respectful and constructive
Picture: iStock

Living with chronic pain can cast a long shadow over someone’s life, with the distress felt by some historically labelled by clinicians as ‘pain catastrophising’.

‘It’s probably the most unhelpful term we use to describe patients,’ says nurse Felicia Cox , former chair of the RCN pain and palliative

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