International Journal of Global Health

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Contested pain: Managing the invisible symptom

Drawing parallels between chronic pain in Vulvodynia and acute pain in Sickle Cell Disease, our opinion is one that challenges the prevailing medical model by contrasting the experiences of pain sufferers and reflecting on the lenses through which the pain is seen. In both chronic illnesses, the patient has self-knowledge that the healthcare professional does not always recognise. Lack of access to adequate pain relief in times of crisis; lack of continuity of care; and pain flareups means that patients often find themselves needing to prove the existence of their pain to a healthcare professional every time they need prescription relief. Patients voice concerns and struggle to manage the tension between needing to control pain and needing to control medication intake. To make best use of their interactions with healthcare professionals, patients informally monitor their bodily experience and bring symptoms to the attention of healthcare professionals, of which is usually met with a biomedical discourse that isolates the patient from what should be a collaborative relationship. Ultimately, this commentary deliberates on the opinion that both patients and doctors should be working together on a more effective approach to pain management.

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