7 Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About Pain

Be your own pain advocate. Here are seven tips for talking to your doctor about pain.

Make the most of the time you spend with your doctor to get the care you need. Be your own pain expert to get the most out of your office visit.

Here are seven tips to help you effectively talk about your painful condition. Being accurate and specific about your pain will help you get the best diagnosis and treatment. These tips are helpful if you have fibromyalgia, arthritis or other chronic pain conditions:

1. Choose your words to describe pain. Here are some examples:

  • Sharp
  • Stabbing
  • Tugging
  • Burning
  • Tender
  • Stiff
  • Dull
  • Deep pain
  • Achy
  • Pressure

2. Rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain ever.

3. Tell your doctor when the pain is at its worst:

  • In the morning when you wake up
  • During the day after activity
  • In the evening before you go to sleep
  • At night (interfering with sleep)

4. Describe other symptoms beside the pain.

  • Flu-like symptoms: tired, achy feeling all over the body
  • Nodules on your hands or elsewhere
  • Rashes

5. Describe the location of pain.
Be very specific. Point to a specific location or more than one area on your body. Keep track of pain by marking an "x" on a simple outline drawing of the body. Take the picture with you to the doctor as a visual reminder.

6. Describe how your symptoms limit your daily activities.
Here is a scale from 0 to 4, with a description of each number.
0. You have pain, but you are fully active. The pain does not limit your activity.
1. You can do light work or sedentary work (office work) but can't do anything strenuous.
2. You can walk around and take care of yourself, but can't do any work activities or strenuous activity.
3. Your pain is starting to limit your ability to take care of yourself. You need some help with even the most basic things like dressing, bathing or cooking.
4. You are completely disabled. You need help to take care of your basic needs.

7. Keep a pain log.
Track your pain for a few days before seeing your doctor. In the pain log, keep track of items 1 through 6. Also, note what medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, you took to relieve the pain and whether they helped. Include any herbal preparations. Also note any complementary treatments, like a massage, a warm bath or meditation. And note if these provided any relief.