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Pain Manag. 2011 May;1(3):257-65. doi: 10.2217/pmt.11.21.

Perception of pain in others: implication for caregivers.

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École de psychologie, Faculté des Sciences Sociales, Université Laval, Québec, G1V 0A6, Canada; École de psychologie, Pavillon Félix-Antoine-Savard, 2325, rue des Bibliothèques Bureau 1116, Université Laval, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada.


SUMMARY The subjective nature of pain renders its perception in others a challenge for clinicians and informal caregivers responsible for its assessment and relief. Adequate perception of others' pain relies on different behavioral and neurophysiological mechanisms. Several individual, relational and contextual factors can influence the way the brain reacts to others' pain and the perception and assessment of this pain. This article focuses on recent neurophysiological and psychological evidence that characterizes these factors, and discusses their potential impact on the perception of others' pain in a caregiving context. Factors influencing the perception of pain in others are divided into factors related to the self (caregiver), factors related to the other (patient), and factors related to the relationship between those individuals and the context in which the pain is perceived. We propose that the perception of others' pain plays a crucial role in the treatment provided by clinicians and informal caregivers, and that further research could lead to improving decision-making regarding pain management.


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