October 07, 2014 — Blog Post
How to Make the Most of Your Healthcare Visit for Optimal Pain Control
Meeting a new pain management team can create stress, but preparation can improve communication and facilitate your care.
In a perfect world, visits with the team would be unhurried, filled with compassionate understanding about your pain. In the real world, the time allocated for consults are hardly sufficient to discuss complex problems such as chronic pain. Nevertheless, there are strategies you can use to make the most of this time, while developing a strong collaborative relationship with your team.
1. Write down your history: Most people with chronic pain have extensive experience with the health care system. Describing this history in a thorough and chronological manner may be difficult, particularly when we might be nervous meeting a new team. Write down the events that led to the chronic pain as well as surgeries or other therapies that have been used to treat the pain. Include the dates to help the team understand the timing of these events.
2. Carefully describe your pain, including the following:
- Location – there may multiple sites of pain (using a drawing can be helpful)
- Intensity – using a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 means “no pain” and 10 means “worst possible”, describe the intensity of your usual pain, the worst pain, and the least pain intensity experienced
- Quality – include all the words you use to describe the pain, such as “aching”, “throbbing”, “tingling”, “electrical”, “shocks”, “painful numbness”
- What makes the pain better and what makes it worse?
3. List all past and current pain treatments: With electronic medical records, there is a tendency to believe everything is accurately recorded and easy for the team to access. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case, and often medical records are not available across settings of care. Until these records become universal, it is so important to keep your own history and bring this to all healthcare visits.
- List the medicines, nerve blocks, physical therapies and all other interventions used in the past to manage your pain.
- For medicines, include the dose and the duration of time you took the drug. If it caused side effects, list these too. If it was discontinued, described why this was stopped.
4. Bring all your current medications: Bring pill bottles, patches, creams and any other medicines currently used – and not just those used for pain. Don’t forget to include over the counter medicines and herbal therapies. And keep them in the original bottles so the team can refer to the contents if more information is needed. Careful review of all of these medicines can prevent duplication and potential adverse reactions.
5. Bring X-rays, CTs, MRIs and other scans. Our healthcare system is not as seamless as we would like. So it may delay treatment if your team has to obtain these scans from other health care centers where you received care. And repeating these scans can cost you money, time, and possibly, pain. Bring the actual scans, usually on a CD, along with the radiologist’s report. You may wish to keep copies of these scans for your own records.
6. List your goals. What do you hope to achieve? Are you seeking complete relief of pain? Are you hoping to be able to work part time? Ride your bicycle? Take fewer pills? The more specific you can be the better you and your team can develop a plan of care to accomplish these goals.
7. Make a list of questions: This is your time and you likely have many questions. Listing questions ahead of time ensures your needs are met during a busy consultation.
8. Bring a friend or family member. A second set of ears is very important when complex medical information might be discussed. A friend or family member can help you remember the recommendations offered by the team. You may also wish to tape record the conversation so it can be played back later. Let the team know you are taping the conversation and why.
Effective pain management requires a strong working relationship between you and your pain management team. In fact, you are an important member of this team! The more information you can provide, the stronger your relationship and the better the long-term results.