How to Talk to your Physician about Pain

lower-back-painYour annual physical exam is around the corner, and you have some health concerns you would like to discuss with your doctor.  How do you talk to your doctor about pain?  It all starts before you even walk in the door for your appointment.  Be proactive and prepared!

My first suggestion is to come prepared with information about the pain you are having.  Keep a pain diary prior to attending the visit with your doctor so that you can best describe the frequency, intensity, duration, and location of your symptoms.  Note whether or not there are activities or positions that specifically make your symptoms feel better or worse.   Once your doctor has examined you, you will have time to discuss your symptoms and the plan of care.

My second suggestion is to have a list of questions ready for your doctor.  Consider keeping a medical journal for yourself where you can keep all of your recorded information for easy reference later.  If, for example, you are seeing your doctor about recurrent low back pain after gardening, have questions ready about treatment options.  If your doctor recommends pain medications as a treatment option, ask specific questions that may include dosage, how often, with or without food, and side effects.  You may also consider asking questions about other methods for back pain relief such as heat, a home TENS unit, or physical therapy.  Keeping a prepared list of questions with spaces for answers will allow you to quickly note the doctor’s answer so that you have a greater understanding about your options regarding a customized pain relief management regimen.

Finally, if you don’t understand something your doctor has discussed with you, ask additional questions.  At the time of your visit, you may feel that you have had all of your questions answered, but upon reviewing your medical journal later, you may find you need more information.  Don’t forget that you can contact the doctor’s medical support staff for additional assistance and direction.

It’s your health!  Take control by preparing ahead of time so that you have the most favorable outcome from your doctor’s visit.

By Kathleen Prampin, PT (Physical Therapist), MPT, OCS, Cert. MDT, COMT