Chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia are still rather misunderstood, even in the medical profession. If you’ve tried to seek help for chronic pain, you might have felt disheartened with your doctor’s response. Or, thanks to the brain fog, anxiety and exhaustion that’s so common with chronic pain, you might have struggled to communicate how you were feeling in the moment and left without getting a resolution.
At Weather Flare, we know how important it is to have a positive relationship with your doctor when you’re suffering from chronic pain. We don’t want you to suffer with your pain alone, so we’ve put together some tips to help you talk to your doctor effectively about chronic pain.
1. Come prepared.
Think about anything in your medical history that may be relevant to your pain, and make sure you have the details with you. For example, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital recommends you bring your medication, or a list of medications you’re currently taking, plus any scans, reports or letters from other doctors or hospitals that may be relevant to your current pain.
2. Keep a pain diary and take it to your appointment.
When you’re dealing with chronic pain and all of the associated symptoms, it’s easy to forget the finer details. A pain diary is a great way to capture all the essential information your doctor may need to help you with your pain. It should include:
How long you’ve had your pain.
What triggers the pain.
Where you feel the pain.
Whether your pain is in one spot or spread out.
How the pain feels.
How severe the pain is.
How often the pain occurs.
How long the pain lasts.
Whether the pain is constant or comes and goes.
What activities relieve the pain.
What activities make the pain worse.
Be specific about the type of pain you feel. It can be difficult to put your pain into words, so have a look at this list of common descriptors and see if any of them resonate with you:
3. Explain how pain affects your life.
You know all too well that chronic pain is more than just a physical issue, but it can be hard to communicate this to your doctor. Think of all the ways it affects your life, such as:
I struggle to get to sleep and then I wake up exhausted.
I can’t concentrate on my work and then I get stressed when I fall behind.
I’m scared to exercise because it hurts so much afterwards.
I can’t find the energy to do housework or cook meals.
I never see my friends and family anymore because I’m so tired/depressed/stressed.
I’m so irritable with my partner and kids and it makes me feel terrible.
I feel so helpless sometimes because it feels like the pain will never end.
It can be hard going into such personal detail, but it’s important that your doctor knows exactly how pain affects your life. If it helps, write it down beforehand and then give it to your doctor to read. This way, you won’t forget any important details either!
4. Clarify what the numbers on the pain scale mean for you.
The pain scale is used by medical professionals to assess pain on a scale of 1-10. However, pain is subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. What feels like a five to one person can feel like a ten to another.
Tell your doctor which number you feel you’re at when the pain is manageable, at which number you need to seek out pain relief, and at which number you find the pain unmanageable. These are your own numbers, so your doctor knows that when you get to that top number, regardless of what it is, then the pain is unmanageable for you personally.
Note your pain scale numbers your pain diary, so your doctor can see how the pain fluctuates and judge when intervention is needed.
5. Bring someone along for support.
You may feel a lot of pressure when you’re sat in the doctor’s chair, and it’s easy to forget everything you wanted to say. Take someone with you who’s familiar with your pain, discuss beforehand everything you want to tell the doctor, and ask them to prompt you if there’s anything you haven’t covered.
6. Ask for the help you need.
If you’re struggling with your pain and feel like you need more help, the NHS says that you can ask for a referral to a specialist pain clinic. While it’s important to be open to the recommendations your doctor makes, it’s ok for you to request specific help or discuss any suggestions you have, too.
Remember, nobody should have to deal with chronic pain alone. You’re entitled to adequate care, so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for the help you need. If you’ve followed the steps above and you feel your doctor is dismissing your concerns, it’s your right to ask for a second opinion.
The Weather Flare app was specifically designed to help people with chronic conditions, including pain. We know what it’s like and we want to help. Download the app today on iOS and Android and see how it can help you. We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the app, and would love your feedback so we can make it as helpful as possible.