How to Talk About Pain With Your Doctor
Managing pain is an essential aspect of healthcare, but unfortunately, it is often overlooked. This is because most healthcare providers lack formal training in pain management, which puts patients at a disadvantage.
This lack of training becomes apparent when we look at the statistic that less than half of patients with postoperative pain feel that they have received adequate pain relief. One primary concern is the existence of racial, socioeconomic, and gender disparities in pain management practices when patients report pain.
If you feel your pain is being ignored before, during, or after a procedure, here are some insights you can consider.
Listen to your gut
It's essential to listen to your instincts. If you feel that something is not right, it most likely isn't. Patients, especially women, often wonder if the amount of pain they're feeling is normal. However, monitoring vital signs can be crucial in determining abnormal pain. If heart rate and blood pressure increase during a procedure, both the doctor and patient should take note that the pain is not normal.
Speaking up when you’re uncomfortable is vital, which also applies to healthcare. Doctors should be willing to adjust the treatment plan accordingly, even if it is on the spot. Patients should also be able to ask their doctors for an explanation if they dismiss the use of a specific drug, such as opioids. It is essential to ask for alternative options and to understand the potential consequences if those options fail.
Discuss your pain levels
It is important to discuss pain levels, potential discomfort, and recovery timelines with your doctor before any procedure. If your doctor doesn’t address these concerns, don’t hesitate to ask questions for clarity and reassurance.
Patients with difficulty with pain management or specific procedures should be honest about their concerns so their doctor can create a suitable pain management plan. Sharing pain levels with your doctor is not a sign of weakness; instead, it helps them tailor an appropriate strategy.
Pain is subjective
When consulting with your doctor, you must describe your experience as honestly as possible. Without self-judgment, fear, or embarrassment, it’s crucial to communicate the impact pain has on your life. You need to express these details accurately, whether it’s interfering with sleep or preventing engagement in activities. Everyone has different sensitivities to pain, so you don’t need to worry if your assessment is valid.
If you're having trouble communicating with your healthcare provider, it may be helpful to schedule an in-person follow-up appointment with the assistance of a relative or friend. This extra support can provide valuable observations and help clarify your thoughts.
During the appointment, discussing any pain affecting your daily life, including sleep patterns, mobility, and overall functioning, is important. Sharing this information can help physicians make more informed decisions about managing your pain.
Seek a second opinion
If you feel your concerns are not being addressed despite your efforts, consider seeking a second opinion. Seeking a second opinion from a different healthcare provider can provide alternative perspectives and approaches to pain management.
If you’re unsure where to start, many healthcare centers have patient advocacy offices that investigate complaints and support patients.
It's important to understand that pain is different for everyone, and if you experience discomfort, it's crucial to speak up and seek treatment. Don't be discouraged if you're not taken seriously at first; keep advocating for your needs, and don't give up. Using these strategies, you can successfully navigate the complicated world of pain management and receive the proper care you deserve.