Assertiveness and Communication and Chronic Pain

Assertiveness and Communication and Chronic Pain


Chronic pain is typically defined as a pain that lasts for more than six months and does not respond to the conventional medicines and therapies.

Apart from physical aspects, chronic pain strongly affects the psychological mindset of the individual and mars the overall confidence level.

According to the American Pain Foundation (APF), more than a whopping 50 million Americans live with serious chronic pain, which interferes in their everyday personal, social and professional lives.

Communication and Chronic Pain

Effective communication is a process wherein an individual is capable of clearly expressing and conveying the exact feelings, desires and thoughts.

Communication is closely inter-linked with chronic pain and forms the basis for a successful pain management programme. Here we list the most important ways in which communication facilitates effective management of chronic pain.

Ensures proper medication and treatment as the patient is able to convey the source of pain clearly Minimizes the risk of medicinal error on the part of the clinician Reduces the negative feelings in the patient by helping him to vent out all the pain-related anger and frustration Widens the scope of alternative treatment and change in treatment modalities, as the individual is able to communicate the effect of current medication Enhances the overall well-being and state of health of the patient of chronic pain

Besides, a recent seven-country survey revealed that effective patient- physician communication is the key to earlier, accurate diagnosis and treatment for patients with neuropathic pain.

Assertiveness and Chronic Pain

Assertiveness on the patient’s behalf is one of the most important tools for taking charge of the chronic pain management. It is basically an act of believing and affirming the presence of chronic pain, along with its related impact.

In this section, we have listed some of the most important points on the importance of assertiveness in the communication process.

Helps the patient in handling chronic pain better after it has been clearly viewed and accepted. Leads to elimination of any psychological barriers related to chronic pain. Patients suffering from chronic pain often end up believing that their pain is imaginary. Helps the patient to stay free of guilt of acting harshly and abnormally due to the pain. Helps the patient in focusing directly on the cause and symptoms of chronic pain

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is a form of communication in which an individual honestly acknowledges to himself his wants, desires and learns to communicate the same openly to others.

Assertiveness training is one of the means of acquiring improved communication skills and is presented as a technique in reducing the emotional stress associated with pain.

The key correlation of assertive communication and chronic pain stems from the fact that most of the individuals with chronic pain and disability strongly believe that they have been treated unfairly and unjustly by other people.

As a medium to alleviate chronic pain, there are various aspects of the concept of assertive communication. In order to clearly lay out the meaning of communicating assertively, it is important to have an insight into the two other contrasting communication styles, aggressive and passive.

Aggressive –

This form of communication occurs when you feel angry with others for interfering with your wants and desires. Angrily demanding, bullying, accusing, threatening and fighting are the main forms of expressing in this type of communication process.

Passive –

In this type of communication, you will not express your demands and wishes directly, and will resort to passive-aggressive behavior such as procrastination, excuses, whining and the like.

In contrast to the above two, assertiveness is about finding a middle way between aggression and passivity that best respects the personal boundaries of all relationship partners. Individuals who are assertive learn to show aggression defensively, without being defensive.

Research shows that assertiveness training has resulted in positive feedback and acceptance from patients experiencing different medical conditions.


While assertiveness is the affirmed belief in the genuine existence, cause and impact of pain, communication is the clear and confident expression of the same to yourself and others.

For effective management of chronic pain, it is important that both of the above discussed principles are learnt, followed and implemented properly, by the clinician as well as the patient.