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Talking about pain with our doctors

Last update: 09/24/2014

Talking about Pain: 

How to Communicate More Effectively About It

Adapted from the American Pain Foundation's "Pain Action Guide"

It's very important to report pain to our doctors and what might help to explain it, particularly when it's persistent, and increases over time -- and when the cause is not known.  

What is the cause?  It can be challenging to know with certainty.  Is it a side effect of treatment, a result of an injury, related or un-related to our medical condition?     We may attribute to some event correctly, or incorrectly.  An underlying condition, for example, may be the cause of pain that can be treated effectively before it gets too advanced.

The checklist that follows can help us to report pain in ways that will assist our doctors to identify the possible causes of the pain we feel and make judgments about the appropriate tests and medications.  

Also see Optimizing Doctor Visits by PAL | Symptoms Checklist by PAL

Checklist for reporting our pain

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How is the pain right now?
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When did the pain start?
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Is it getting better or worse over time?
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Is it always there? 
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Does it go away? 
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Have you ever had this type of pain before?
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Are there any  medical conditions, events, treatments, or activities that might explain it?
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Did you fall?
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Have recent massage therapy? 
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Apply heat or cold to the area? 
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Did you receive a treatment for a medical condition?
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Are there any activities that repeat a movement often that might explain (repetitive stress injury)
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Did you exercise, do vigorous work, or engage in sport, before the pain started?
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How much does the pain hurt?
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Use a scale from 0 to 10

0 means no pain; 10 means the worst pain that you can imagine
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When is your pain at the highest, lowest
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Morning, afternoon, evening, bed time, in bed
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After or before meals (types of meals)
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Where does it hurt?
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Do you have pain in one place or several places? 
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Does it seem to move around?
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What makes your pain better or worse:
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Does it get better or worse when you move in certain ways? 
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Does it feel better or worse at night or in the morning?
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Does it feel better when you take certain pain medications?
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Does if feel worse after or before eating?
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Do other things make it better or worse?
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What does the pain feel like?  
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Use specific words to describe your pain, such as:
aching, dull, sharp, bloating, numbing, shooting
burning, pressing, soreness, cramping, pressure, stabbing,
comes and goes, pulling, throbbing
constant, radiating, tightness, cutting, searing
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Provide a list of medications and supplements you take and the dose:
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Prescription medication, dose, start date
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Over-the-counter medications? 
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Supplements (which are not regulated and are sometimes contaminated)
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Does the start of taking medications or supplements coincide with the start of the pain?
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How much does the pain affect your daily life
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Can you sleep? Work? Exercise? 
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Can you participate in social activities?
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Does it affect your concentrate or mood?

(Adapted from Pain Action Guide. American Pain Foundation. 2001.)

 
 
Disclaimer:  The information on Lymphomation.org is not intended to be a substitute for 
professional medical advice or to replace your relationship with a physician.
For all medical concerns,  you should always consult your doctor. 
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