The Power of What We Say

Happy Thursday everybody, Tyler Paterson RMT here!

Just wanted to share a quick story about a patient I had the other day….

My patient came in with foot pain and explained to me she had been experiencing it for a while now. I asked if she had seen another health care professional for it and she said she had seen her Doctor. Her Doctor was quick to tell her she had heel spurs (a growth of bone on the bottom of the foot in an adaptive response to a stress, which may not always be associated with pain by the way). Since then, she has been really scared to walk too much or put too much weight on her foot.

*To preface, I want to make it clear that I am not qualified to diagnose anything in my patients. But if someone comes to me after a diagnosis of heel spurs from their Doctor, then I am very confident in effectively searching for the common red flags that would likely indicate this.

Throughout my assessment, I found no signs of bony overgrowth, or really any pain on palpation near the area where a heel spur would occur. She also explained the more she walked around the better it felt, but she was still very hesitant because she thought walking might make the pain worse.

After my thorough assessment, I told her that I STRONGLY believe she may have been misdiagnosed because she didn’t show any red flags that are typical with heel spurs.

She had a puzzled look on her face and went quiet for a second. I asked her what’s wrong and she said “my pain just went from a 9 out of 10 to a 5” and expressed obvious relief. That is the power of our words as healthcare professionals.

All healthcare professionals are in positions of authority who hold immense power in regards to the influence our words have on our patients. This hasty diagnosis combined with a lack of positive affirmation had affected my patient negatively for the past 3 months because she clearly associated heel spurs with negative implications (in this case, that negative implication was pain). This leads me to wonder if communicating this diagnosis differently may have been more helpful (regardless of whether the diagnosis was correct or not).

In summation, we as health care professionals need to be very careful with WHAT we tell people as well as the WAY we tell it, because the way in which we educate and inform our patients has tremendously powerful influence.

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