Affecting an estimated 100 million Americans, chronic pain can present many challenges when it comes to making an accurate diagnosis and recommending treatments likely to enhance quality of life and ease discomfort. The first step in this process is to have an open, honest discussion with your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon about your experiences with chronic pain. However, it’s important to be mindful of some things you shouldn’t say when having a conversation with a medical professional about chronic pain.
1. “According to My Research…”
Doctors are trained to make a well-informed assessment of your condition and offer treatment suggestions based on their knowledge and experience. If you inject things you read online or saw on TV or advice you got from well-meaning friends into the conversation, you may not have an open mind if treatments recommended aren’t in line with what you think might work for you based on your own research. In other words, trust the doctor you’re speaking with to form an opinion based on his or her impressions and interpretations of test results.
2. “It’s Just Really Bad”
General statements like this aren’t helpful for a doctor who can’t read your mind to figure out what you really mean. While there may be days when your pain seems “really bad” all the time, chronic pain can vary in intensity. Some patients have flare-ups, while others are more uncomfortable when leaning forward, standing up, or sitting down. Include these details when discussing your symptoms with a new doctor or specialist.
3. “After I Was in This Car Accident, I Started to Experience…”
Tying your chronic pain to a car accident or a work-related injury can trigger red flags for a doctor who may assume your primary goal is financial gain. Even if your pain is related to something that happened while you were driving or working, let your doctor focus on diagnosis and treatment efforts and keep your legal or insurance matters as separate as possible.
4. “Can I Have a Prescription for…?”
Asking for a prescription right away may make a doctor suspicious, especially with the growing concern about opioids and addiction. There are times when pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and other drugs may be part of your treatment, but let your doctor bring up medication after he or she gets a better understanding of your condition and how chronic pain is affecting you. On the flip side, don’t get defensive and proclaim you’re “not an addict” since doing so could cause a doctor to question some of your behaviors or motives.
5. “I’ve Tried Everything”
It may seem like you’ve tried “everything” when it comes to managing your symptoms. However, there are many chronic pain treatment and management options available today. Write down a list of treatments or therapies you’ve already tried and the results to give your doctor some guidance when determining what to recommend. Even if you’ve tried just about “everything,” you may have a better experience with treatments you’ve previously tried once an accurate diagnosis of the source of your chronic pain is made.
6. “But My Last Doctor Said…”
Avoid bringing up things your previous doctor did. Even if you’ve already had the same diagnostic tests before, your new physician may want fresh test results to see what’s going on now. Plus, each doctor has his or her own methods, so bringing up what another doctor did or said could cause your new specialist or doctor to become defensive.
It’s just as important to keep the tips discussed here in mind when working with a physical therapist. As is the case with any doctors who are treating you, therapists also rely on honest, detailed input to get a better feel for what’s working and what isn’t. They might even suggest alternative therapies that are more comfortable and effective for you, like water-based exercises, based on your feedback. The doctor might also recommend fusion surgery or an alternative to spinal fusion. Santa Monica residents who are seeking relief for their chronic pain should call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.