Tips for Talking to Your Doctor When You have Chronic Pain
Whether this is the first time, the tenth time or the last time, when you see your doctor to discuss your experience with chronic pain, you might want to read these tips first.
- Be Polite: A conversation will go better with less chance of people getting defensive or offended if all words are spoken politely with love, not anger. Although, it is very easy to become irritated and angry when the pain is crushing your spirit, the response to that experience is in your control.
- Keep Your Medication List Up to Date: If your doctor is unsure exactly what medications you are taking, then it is very difficult to come up with a plan. This is especially true when you are visiting specialists or other doctors you do not see regularly.
- Keep A List of Medications Already Tried: If you have been around the pain block a few times, you have probably tried many different drugs in the hopes of finding just the right one to tame your pain. It greatly helps a doctor to know which ones have been tried and what the results were. This information is also very useful when attempting to get prior authorization for a non-formulary drug.
- Bring a Second Pair of Ears: Remembering everything that was said in an appointment is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Bringing a spouse or good friend can help to absorb all that was said so that there is less chance of confusion in the future.
- Keep an “Activity” Journal: One of the key goals for being on medications that help to control pain is that you will be able to do more activities. If you keep an activity journal, bring it to your appointment and say, “See doc, the medications are working because as you can see, I am able to do more”.
- Keep a “Food” Journal: One reason why you feel bad is that you might be eating a poor diet that promotes pain and inflammation. An astute doctor might be able to help you make better food choices in order to help you feel better. The best way for you and your doctor to track what you eat is with a food journal.
- Don’t Assume Anything: The three worst assumptions to make when talking to your doctor are: you know best, the doctor knows best, or the current treatment plan is best. These assumptions close your mind to alternatives. Having an open mind to the possibilities is how solutions are discovered.
- Wear Easy On/Off Clothing: A good doctor will do a physical exam during your first appointment. A good doctor will do a physical exam periodically or when a new symptom arises. Be prepared to allow you doctor access to the parts that ail you.
- Be Prepared to Give a Urine Sample: Urine drug testing is the standard of care for any doctor prescribing opioid pain medications. Anytime you see your doctor, being prepared to give a urine sample makes appointments go much easier.
- Give New Ideas a Try: Automatically rejecting new ideas means that you are not ready for change. Maybe a change is not necessary and your life is deeply satisfying. However, if you are experiencing pain and suffering, change might be a welcomed experience because the right change may help to reduce the pain and suffering.
Suggested Reading for You and Your Doctor:
- Explain Pain by David Butler (the spiral-bound version is worth it)
- Painful Yarns by Lorimer Moseley
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.