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Talking to Your Doctor About Chronic Pain

Make a List

Make a list of the most important things you want to discuss with your doctor. Even if you don't bring it to your appointment, a list will help you focus during your doctor visit. Limit it to just a few things; having too long a list will result in either running out of time before getting to all the topics or simply discussing all of them too briefly. Some of your less important concerns will probably have to wait until another visit. And certainly remember to respect your doctor's time by avoiding lengthy conversations that are not pertinent to the task at hand.
If chronic pain is your primary concern, mention it to the nurse who checks you in at the beginning of your appointment. Bring it up as soon as your doctor walks in the room. Whatever you do, do not wait until the last minute when your doctor already has their hand on the doorknob to leave to bring up your main concern.

Be Honest

This is not the time to be stoic and brave. Be honest about your pain level. Be honest about how much your pain is affecting your life. Do not minimize your pain or the side effects from your pain medication. If you don't want to talk about your pain in front of a specific person (say, a friend or family member), don't bring them to your appointment.

Be Descriptive

In a brief and straightforward manner, be as specific as you can about the location, nature, and timing of your pain. Is it sharp? Dull? Gnawing? Is it constant or intermittent? Is it localized to a specific location on your body, or is it more generalized?
Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, even if your healthcare provider doesn't ask you to. Doctors are scientific creatures, and they tend to do better with concrete numbers rather than vague impressions of pain. Saying the pain is an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 is much more meaningful than saying that it hurts "a lot."
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