7 things you need to do before seeing your doctor about pain

October 9, 2015

You might feel like you're waiting ages in between doctor's appointments if your symptoms are severe or if they are changing rapidly. By the time you go to your appointment, you find you're forgetting to mention things while you're there, or don't know where to focus. Use the seven tips below to guide you.

7 things you need to do before seeing your doctor about pain

1. How to explain your pain

Pain can be hard to describe. Make sure you can answer the following questions so that you can address your experience and needs with your doctor.

  • Where do you feel pain? List all the places you hurt as soon as you feel pain.
  • What does your pain feel like? Describe whether your pain is aching or pounding, stabbing or dull, deep or tender. Give your pain a rating, from zero to ten.
  • When do you feel pain? Describe when you feel pain, for how long, under what circumstances, and during what activities.
  • What makes your pain better? Let the doctor know what medications, therapies, and situations lessen your pain.
  • What does your pain keep you from? Maybe it keeps you from driving, going to temple, carrying groceries, or playing golf.

2. State your expectations

If you're leaving one doctor because you're angry that he can't make you 100 percent pain-free, you may face the same disappointment elsewhere.

  • Tell the doctor what you want to be able to do again: play with your dog, ride a bike, knit a sweater.
  • Ask him what is a reasonable expectation. A good doctor should be forthright: You probably will be able to do X and Y but not Z.

3. Focus on your main complaint

You may feel like everything hurts, but reciting a litany of ills will only overwhelm your time-crazed doctor.

  • Decide beforehand what you want the main focus and outcome of your visit to be and stick with that.

4. Do your homework

The more you know about your health problem before you go into a doctor's office, the better and more efficient your conversation will be.

  • Before you see your new doctor, think about, even write down, how you will describe your pain: its frequency, intensity and location, for example.
  • Use descriptive words such as throb, burn, ache, tingle, sharp, or gnawing.

5. Have realistic expectations

Most pain won't go away with one visit or treatment, and it's unfair to blame your doctor for that.

  • Keep a pain diary that tracks your levels of pain so that both you and your doctor can see your progress.

6. Write down your drugs and other treatments

Keep a record of your medications and procedures and take a copy with you to every appointment.

  • Your doctor can't remember every detail about every patient, and you may not remember everything about your case, either.

7. Follow through on his advice

  • You can't expect your doctor's advice to help you if you don't act on it.

It can be difficult to explain something as subjective as pain, but this guide can help! Before seeing your doctor, follow these tips and give your doctor the information he needs to relieve your pain as quickly as possible.

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