Explaining pain can be hard. It can be felt and experienced differently from person to person, making what feels manageable to one individual feel excruciating to another. The most important thing to remember when trying to explain your pain to a doctor is simply to try. Finding the right words to show how you are experiencing the pain can be difficult, but don’t let that stop you. Here are a few things that may help you when preparing for an appointment with your doctor.
Keep a pain journal
It is easy to forget how you felt for the days, or weeks, prior to your appointment, Keeping a pain journal can help you objectively show your doctor how your back pain is affecting you. Write down how the pain feels each day, if it fluctuates, how long it lasts and if it changed your day at all. Could you go about your normal routine, or did you need to cancel some things? Did the pain lessen at night? Increase with activity? Also keep track of any remedies you tried to help relieve the pain and write down how successful those remedies were.
While your doctor may ask you questions that you did not expect, knowing a few common questions before going in can help you feel more relaxed and prepare you to leave the appointment confident that you didn’t forget anything. One way to remember what to discuss is by using the LOCATES aid created by the American Pain foundation:
L – Location
Where do you feel the pain? Does it travel to other body parts or stay in one location consistently?
Are there any other symptoms you experience when feeling pain? These could include, but are not limited to, feelings of nausea, weakness or numbness in the area or throughout other parts of your body.
C-Character of the pain
How would you explain the pain? It is sharp, stabbing, throbbing, dull, burning,or pinching?
A- Aggravating and alleviating factors.
Does anything make the pain feel worse such as certain movements, positions or activities? Have you tried any remedies that successfully relieved your pain?
How long does the pain last? Do you feel it all day long or at different times? If you do feel pain all day, is it worse at specific times of the day or is it a consistent, unchanging pain?
This refers to the environment where the pain occurs, assuming the pain is not all day. Do you mostly feel it at work? At home? In bed? Or does the environment where the pain occurs change?
How much does it hurt? Commonly, doctors use a 0-10 pain scale, where 0 represents no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine. This scale can be difficult for some, so don’t be afraid to give a small range or use descriptive words such as unbearable or manageable.
Talking to a doctor about your pain can be challenging but is an important step in finding the right solution to reduce or even eliminate your pains.