10 Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About Pain

Dr. Payam Hakimi, a physician who practices integrative medicine, offers advice for talking to your doctor about chronic pain.

- Posted on Jul 24, 2018

A woman consults with her doctor

As Lisa Shaver learned, chronic pain can be one of the most difficult conditions to correctly diagnose, particularly in a hurried 10-minute appointment. “Often a patient’s symptoms don’t fit neatly into a box,” says Payam Hakimi, M.D., a physician who practices integrative medicine. The ideal treatment plan, Dr. Hakimi says, takes a holistic approach, considering all aspects of a patient’s health and lifestyle, not just the immediate symptoms. Here are things Dr. Hakimi says to be sure to tell your doctor about your pain, as well as a list of questions to ask.

Five things to tell your doctor:

1) Where the pain is located. Be as precise as possible. Is it outside the left knee, for example, or is the entire joint painful?

2) When it started. What led up to the pain? Was there physical trauma? Had you been under stress beforehand?

3. How bad it hurts. Shooting pain can signal a different problem than a dull ache. Everyone has different tolerances for discomfort. Even migraines can be less severe in one person than another.

4) Activities that make it worse or better. Does the discomfort increase when climbing stairs, for instance? Is pain affecting your ability to do the things you love?

5) If you have allergies. It’s important to be aware of any interactions.

Five things to ask your doctor:

1) What are the treatment options? Ask the doctor to explain the risks and benefits of each. Are there nonmedical options, such as massage, meditation or acupuncture?

2) What is the expected outcome? If treatment is expected to reduce pain but not eliminate it, that’s important to know. Will you be able to return to favorite activities or your job?

3) What about homeopathic medicine? Homeopathic medicines have a low risk of side effects and don’t interact with other meds. For more acute pain, Dr. Hakimi recommends using an arnica-based medicine, such as Arnicare, to relieve muscle pain and swelling from injuries. It is made from a mountain daisy and available over the counter in gel, cream, ointment and roll-on topical forms as well as oral pellets and tablets.

4) What are the possible side effects? Nearly all prescription medications can cause complications. Be aware of the potential risks.

5) How long will it take to see results? “If you’re expecting instantaneous improvement but it’s likely to take months, you should know that,” Dr. Hakimi says.   

For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Guideposts magazine.

Related Videos

Tags: Hope,Healing
View Comments