Many people living with chronic pain find it very difficult to describe and explain their pain to their doctor during a visit.

Since the average doctor visit is a short 7–10 minutes, it is important to be concise and prepared. Talking to your health care provider can be daunting; this is why it is especially important to be prepared for your visit.  It is also important to realize and except that doctors have intense schedules and may not be as prepared as we would hope they could be.

How to Prepare for a Visit to Your Doctor

  • Keeping a pain journal. This will help your provider but will also help you to see what is working and what has not. Document things like mood, sleep, appetite, movement and focus.
  • Bring in notes from a previous visit.
  • Bring medications and supplements and/or a list of medications and supplements.
  • Bring in a list of questions or concerns.
    • Be exact and specific.
    • Use describing words. No one else can feel your pain except you, using words like burning, numb, stinging will help your doctor to understand what you are feeling. The more detailed you are the more likely your doctor will be able to help you.
      • Describe the location of the pain.
      • Avoid using 10 on the pain scale (rating your pain as a 10 may not be helpful).
      • Avoid using nonspecific pain descriptions like hurt, painful, bad, or sore. Instead use helpful, specific pain descriptions.
    • Any new symptoms.
    • What has helped and improved.
    • What did not help or improve.

Helpful words for describing chronic pain:

  • Dull
  • Stabbing
  • Shooting
  • Radiating
  • Hot/cold
  • Pins/needles
  • Burning, itching, or stinging
  • Shocking/electrical
  • Cramping/throbbing

Become an Active Participant in your Health Care Needs

Be prepared to collaborate with your health care provider by:

  • Understanding the questions you need answers to.
  • Asking about the treatment plan.
  • Being realistic in your expectations.
  • Being assertive but gentle.
  • Being aware of how your emotions can play a role in the conversation.
  • Be prepared to try new options.
  • Be accepting of change.
  • Following up with plans and changes.

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