Wednesday, August 5, 2009

July 1, 2009: Talking to Your Doctor About Pain

When you or a loved one is in pain, getting help can sometimes be difficult.

According to Dr. Frank Keefe, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, our attitudes toward pain have deep roots. The word “pain” comes from the Greek “poena” which means “punishment.” Many people still equate pain with sin, and may be reluctant to get treatment.

Instead, think of pain as your body’s early warning signal that something is wrong. Pay attention and get help. Listen to your body and catch a problem early, before it ripens into a full-blown disaster.

Before you see the doctor, jot down the answers to these questions. Giving your doctor accurate and complete information will help him or her find a strategy to eliminate or deal with the pain, and to diagnose the underlying causes. These questions are adapted from

How long have you been in pain?

Has this kind of pain come up before? If so, how did you deal with it? What worked or didn’t work?

Where is the pain located? Is it in more than one area? Does it move around? Where is the pain worst?

How severe is the pain? Be prepared to give the doctor a rating from one to ten.

Can you describe the pain? Is it stabbing, aching, burning, or like an electric shock? Write down a clear description of the exact pain.

Do you feel numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation along with the pain?

Does the pain stop you from doing regular activities? Do some activities make the pain worse?

How have you tried to alleviate the pain? Describe any stretching or postures that you have tried, those that help and those that don’t.

What medications have you tried? How often do you take them? How well and for how long do they work?

Do you have any allergies to pain medication?

Bring a copy of your answers to the doctor. Remember that excellent patients have excellent doctors. Be sure to state that your goal is to be comfortable and active. It’s time to enjoy a pain-free, healthy life.

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