For millions of people, who live every day in pain, it is a constant struggle to get their health professionals to take them seriously and to get the help they need.

I have frequently heard about these difficulties in my 30 years of practice as a rehabilitation psychologist. Over 90% of my patients suffer from long-term physical pain and related losses.

So, it was not much of a surprise when I read the following scientific report.

The prestigious journal, PAIN, just published a comprehensive review (May 2018) looking at this very issue – and the findings are not very comforting.

This article is entitled Professionals underestimate patient’s pain: a comprehensive review.  This study was written by Tim Seers, Sheena Derry, Kate Seers and Andrew Moore from the Faculty of Medicine (Neurology) at the  University of Oxford in London England.

These investigators reviewed over 80 studies, with over 20,000 patients, from healthcare settings around the world.  Underestimation of pain was reported in over 75% of the studies.

The Investigators concluded that, “This tendency is more pronounced with more severe pain and the extent of underestimation can be large. This contributes to the under treatment of pain.”

For people in pain, who have been in car or work accidents, this underestimation can be even more troublesome. The above studies all involved health professionals that were trying to help and treat the people in pain.

I suspect that the underestimation of pain is even greater when the health professional is not a treatment provider, but an investigator hired by an insurance company.

To me, this comprehensive review of 80 scientific studies should be a serious concern to lawyers and judges, whose job it is to evaluate the accuracy of reports from healthcare providers and insurance doctors.

When individuals’ pain and suffering are routinely underestimated, and these underestimations are conveyed in expert reports,  it is even more difficult for accident victims to be treated fairly by the justice system.

I hope that these important findings can inform the decisions of judges and adjusters and help bring about a more equitable settlements. Pain and loss are serious matters and should not be underestimated, discounted or denied.

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