Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Words that hurt
There is a rhyme from school that we all know. “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you”. I recall getting in a schoolyard fight and being called a I don’t recall any pain from the fight but I still remember being called a fat pig and to this day, I know the person who called me that. This is Cartesian dualism in the playground – the split of brain and body. Words do hurt. Experienced clinicians will know of many words that hurt. They come from imaging reports (e.g. rupture, compression of thecal sac, degeneration, arthritic) they come from all clinicians ("you have the back of a 60 year old", "you’ll be in a wheelchair" "you have the back of an 80 year old", "its slipped out") and it comes from the internet, neighbours and friends. Some therapists have plastic models of the lumbar spine including ones with a plastic disc with a big red bulge on it – its quite scary and disc bulges are not like that, nor do they have to hurt. These words and phrases hurt. They lift awareness of the painful part and strongly suggest that there is still damage and disease. This raises the levels of stress chemicals in the body such as adrenaline and cortisol which may make the sore area even more sensitive. I would be grateful if readers could send me example of words that hurt. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.