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The Best Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Chronic Pain

The Best Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Chronic Pain

The information provided in my blog posts is strictly from my own experiences and is not intended to replace medical or professional advice. Do not disregard any medical advice you have received after reading any of my posts. For more please read my disclosure page.

Living with chronic pain, both diagnosed and undiagnosed is extremely stressful and doctors’ appointments can really add to that stress. It can be really difficult getting the most out of your doctor’s appointments when you’re confused about the right questions to ask your doctor. Which is why I’ve put together a list of essential questions to ask your doctor, so you never have to feel annoyed on your way home from an appointment because you forgot to ask something important.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?

Asking the right questions is essential, whether you’re approaching a diagnosis or already have one. But when you’re tackling brain fog, crippling pain and stress, it can be damn near impossible to think of useful questions to ask on the spot.

Unfortunately, it’s common for doctors to dismiss or not take chronic pain seriously, which is why having a list of prepared questions will leave no room for your doctor to push your concerns to one side.

Having a list of questions with you at your appointments will also help prepare you for treatments, diagnosis, or information that your doctor may give you.

Before your medical appointments give yourself some time to jot down your questions, but first, start off by asking yourself some questions relating to your pain. Asking yourself questions to start out with will help you come up with relevant questions to ask your doctor.

Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself:

  • Where is your pain located?
  • When did the pain start?
  • What do you think caused the pain?
  • Does anything make the pain worse – e.g., exercise, food, periods, or stress?
  • What are you currently using to manage the pain?
  • Is your pain impacting other parts of your life – e.g. work, social life, mental health?
  • Does your pain ever improve or is it constant ?
  • Would you like to try other pain relief methods, apart from medication?
  • What pain relief has worked for you in the past?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • How would you describe the pain- sharp, tingling, dull, burning?
  • What tests have you had so far – e.g. blood tests, scans?

Once you have answered these questions, you will have a good basis to come up with relevant questions to ask your doctor. You can also make a note of these answers to bring with you to your appointment so you can refer to them.

QUICK TIPS

  • Appointments can be overwhelming, so remember to bring all of your questions with you
  • During your appointment, if you feel like your doctor is going too fast and bombarding you with information, don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and explain things again.
  • For really important appointments, you can also ask a friend or family member to go with you for support and to jot down or remember any key points.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR DURING YOUR APPOINTMENT

Mac book next to two black pens, phone and pink post-it note

DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S CAUSING MY PAIN?

Chronic pain in all its different forms can be complex, which can make getting an official diagnosis a lengthy process. One of the key questions to ask your doctor is, “what is causing the pain?

Asking this question opens up a window of opportunity to find treatment. Knowing the cause can also offer a peace of mind in knowingly exactly what you’re dealing with.

WHAT EFFECT WILL MY PAIN HAVE ON ME BOTH LONG AND SHORT TERM?

If you have just received a diagnosis or if you’re still waiting for one, knowing what effect chronic pain may have on your life is important. It will help you better understand what to expect, what to look out for, and how to track any changes, such as new symptoms.

DO I NEED TO TAKE ANY TESTS?

white and orange test tube

Taking tests can help rule out or reveal any causes for your pain, which is important as they can also help find and tackle things before they turn into anything sinister.

Asking your doctor about tests can also put your mind at ease if you feel they haven’t done enough testing. It will prompt your doctor to take a deeper look and address anything that may have been have missed.

Now I know how draining and sometimes uncomfortable having a bunch of tests can be, so knowing in advance will give you an opportunity to prepare for them.

DO I NEED TO/ CAN I BE REFERRED TO A PAIN SPECIALIST?

I’ve been suffering with chronic pelvic pain for over 6 years now and I’m still yet to receive an official diagnosis. Sometimes it can be hard for doctors to know the exact cause for pain or provide adequate treatment. Which is why, if you’ve been living with chronic pain for a while and haven’t received adequate treatment, being referred to a pain specialist can be really helpful.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TRACK MY PAIN?

green plant beside floral notebook

Keeping an eye out for things that affect your pain can help uncover any triggers or things that help you manage your pain. It can also help track things like side effects of medication or whether a medication is helping, which over time will help your doctor make any adjustments to your treatment plan.

To make tracking your pain even more useful, ask your doctor:

  • What exactly should you be tracking, for example, triggers, when the pain is worse ?
  • Is there anything in particular you should look out for ?
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Keeping a pain diary will be useful moving forward to help you and your doctor better manage your pain.

WHAT TREATMENT/MEDICATION DO I NEED AND WHY?

Let’s be honest, when you go to a doctor about chronic pain, their first point of call is usually medication before any other investigation. I’m not against medication, but I think doctors should offer chronic pain patients ALL available treatments, not only medication.

But if you’re prescribed medication, it’s important to understand what you’re being given and why. Mainly because you may not even need it or the side effects may outweigh the benefits, so having the right information gives you the ability to make an informed choice about whether you want to take it.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS?

orange and white pills on orange background

As a follow up to the previous question, it’s important to be aware of the side effects of any medication you are being prescribed.

  • When should you become concerned about any side effects?
  • Will the side effects wear off over time?
  • Can you stop taking the medication if the side effects are too bad – This is an important question to ask as you cannot abruptly stop taking certain medications.

ARE THERE ANY ALTERNATIVES?

If you find that medication you’ve been prescribed has terrible side effects or it’s simply not helping, it’s important to know if there are any alternatives.

Unfortunately, doctors tend to have a one-size fits all approach when prescribing medication for chronic pain, which isn’t always helpful. Just because a medication is helpful for one patient it doesn’t mean it will be for another. That’s why it’s important to ask about alternatives to avoid being drawn into the one size fits all approach to pain meds.

WHAT CHANGES CAN I MAKE TO BETTER MANAGE MY PAIN?

woman sitting on beach

As I previously mentioned, doctors are often quick to prescribe medication before diving deeper and considering alternative pain relief options. But medication doesn’t have to be the only option for pain management, there are natural remedies or lifestyle changes such as cleaning up your diet, exercise or practising mindfulness.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING we do impacts our health and well-being, so why not explore ways you can introduce healthy habits into your life to improve both your general health but your chronic pain too?

ARE THERE ANY OTHER RESOURCES AVAILABLE ABOUT MY CONDITION?

Doctors have access to so much information and resources they can provide their patients. So use that to your advantage and ask for resources that will help you gain a better understanding of your condition or anything discussed during your appointments.

Your doctor may have thrown around a lot of medical jargon during your appointment that you don’t understand or would like more information about, so you can ask for additional resources such as,

  • Articles, books or studies related to chronic pain or a particular condition
  • Information for forums or support groups in your area
  • Medical journals
  • Live Well with Pain has some amazing resources to help with pain management

FINAL THOUGHTS…

Having a list of questions to ask your doctor may feel too formal or a little intense but, being prepared for your appointments will help you and your doctor focus on causes, tests or treatment for your chronic pain.

With these questions, I hope you’re able to get information you may not have previously gotten and have a much more positive outcome for your medical appointments.

Let me know what questions you ask at your doctor’s appointments. Maybe I can add them to my list.

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