Pain isn’t just a symptom; it’s also a condition—one that only you truly understand. But, that doesn’t mean your doctor can’t help you. If you take a closer look at your pain, describe it thoroughly, and ask some thoughtful questions, you can help your pain management team develop a results-oriented treatment plan for you.
About Pain Management and Your Role
Pain Management is a subspecialty of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of pain. Pain medicine is sometimes viewed as being a multidisciplinary science meaning your pain management team may include different types of specialists—a physiatrist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, and/or psychiatrist. These specialists often work in union to coordinate care with your primary care physician, surgeon, oncologist, or other doctor.
In itself, pain is a medical condition. Your doctor can’t see your pain, although its cause may be apparent on an imaging study, such as a CT or MRI scan. However, you can help your doctor visualize your pain by providing detailed information about it.
Before your doctor’s appointment, think about how you can describe your pain. Make notes and include questions you’d like answered. Consider bringing a family member or trusted friend with you for support. The suggested questions below are provided to help you analyze and explain your pain.
About Your Pain—Today
- Where is my pain located?
- Does my pain stay in one place or radiate? (eg, sciatica)
- Does anything specifically trigger my pain? (eg, sitting, walking)
- Do I experience numbness, tingling, burning, stinging, or electric-like sensations?
- Is my pain constant, or does it come and go?
- How has pain impacted my quality of life? (eg, hurt relationships, lifestyle changes)
History of Your Pain
- What caused my pain in the first place?
- Did my pain start suddenly or gradually?
- How long have I been in pain?
- What am I currently doing to manage my pain?
- Is there anything I’m doing that’s reducing my pain?
Questions to Consider Asking Your Doctor
Bring your notes and questions with you to your appointment. Doing so can help you make the most of the time with your doctor, and ensure that you leave with information needed to understand your diagnosis and treatment options.
- Do you know what’s causing my pain, or testing necessary to confirm your diagnosis?
- Do I need to see a pain specialist, or do I need to expand my pain management team to other specialists?
- Can my pain be cured, or should I readjust my expectations to managing my pain?
- Does my pain have triggers I should avoid (such as certain foods or fragrances)?
- What kinds of pain treatments may be an option for me?