Be Careful What You Tell Patients!


I highly recommend that clinicians avoid strong terms such as ?trapped and pinched nerves?, ?disc protrusions? and ?degenerative disc disease?.

One can appreciate that once patients have a visual picture of a ?pinched? nerve or ?degenerative disease? in their neck, it makes it much more difficult to convince them that they will get better and that their condition is NOT serious and it is reversible!

I often find myself explaining to patients that when x-ray findings show ?degeneration? it does not mean very much, as MOST people with no neck pain who are walking around have the same ?degeneration?.

I also explain to them that MRI findings showing mild ? disc bulges? are also not serious and 1/3 of the population has disc bulges.

I personally believe that patients are better off if they are simply informed that they have inflamed or irritated joints or nerves, instead of being told they have ?PAIN from arthritis? or ?PAIN from pinched nerves?.

It is obvious that the latter two explanations are more likely to evoke fear, worry, depression and pessimism towards a full recovery.

As we all can appreciate, fear, worry, depression and pessimism can directly affect the speed and the extent of an individual?s recovery.

So let?s be careful about what we say to our patients!

Posted on: July 21, 2002

Categories: Relevant Physical Therapy Articles

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