Talking to Your Doctor About Pain

These are some of the things to discuss with members of your health care team and some of the questions they may ask you:

When and where your pain occurs. You may experience pain in more than one place in your body. Your doctor needs to understand the cause of pain in each place. Was there a particular event that led to the pain?

What the pain feels like. For example, is it dull, sharp, burning, pinching or stabbing?

The intensity of your pain. Different pain scales can help you rate your pain:

  • The simplest scale goes from 0 to 10, with 0 equaling no pain and 10 equaling the worst possible pain.
  • A verbal scale uses mild, moderate and severe as key words to describe pain levels.
  • A series of cartoon-like faces shows differing degrees of discomfort from 0 to 10.
  • Sometimes a thermometer-type scale is used.

Whether anything makes the pain worse. For example, does standing or sitting make it hurt more? Is it worse at night and better during the day?

Whether anything relieves the pain. Do you feel better if you apply ice or heat to the area or if you lie down or walk around?

How much relief you are getting from any pain medications or other methods you use. Does your pain medication provide you with enough relief? Does it wear off before it’s time for your next dose? Are you having any unpleasant side effects? How long does your relief last?

Whether you are having any breakthrough pain, even though your pain is usually well controlled. How many episodes of breakthrough pain do you have? When do they occur? How long do they last? What makes them better?

How the pain is affecting your everyday life. Is pain disturbing your sleep or your ability to eat? Are you able to go about your day without being interrupted by pain?

Remember that you are the expert on your pain, and your health care team is there to help you manage it. With so many advances in the field of pain management, there is no need for anyone to be in constant pain. Effective pain management improves a person’s quality of life and is a basic human right. That’s why it is important to be an active participant with your doctor in managing pain.