Medication and Morality: Analysis of Medical Visits to Address Chronic Pain

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Communication | Health Communication | Medicine and Health Sciences | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Research about language and health in the context of chronic pain is international in scope, but surprisingly sparse. Considering that pain-related complaints are among the top 20 reasons for visits to the doctor (similar in frequency to well baby exams, complaints of fever, and skin rash) and that the medical use of opioids has increased by a factor of 10 since 1990, there is clearly a need for analysis of the language practices that constitute medical visits where pain and pain medications are discussed. Research has addressed how patients describe their pain, but the interactional dynamics of primary care encounters for pain management are as yet underspecified. In this chapter we address this gap in knowledge by focusing on the moral dimension of these visits, specifically examining stances regarding pain medication as embodied in patients' and physicians' language practices.

Book Description
The Routledge Handbook of Language and Health Communication
consists of forty chapters that provide a broad, comprehensive, and systematic overview of the role that linguistics plays within health communication research and its applications. Special attention is given to cross-cutting themes, including the role of technology in health communication, narrative, and observations of authentic, naturally-occurring contexts.