african american doctor speaking with male patient

In Pain? How to Advocate For Your Health to Doctors

Chronic pain can cause many stressors beyond the pain itself. But talking to your doctor doesn’t need to be one of them. Though you may feel uncertain during an appointment, at United Physician Group we are committed to addressing your pain — and all of your health matters — with kindness and empathy. Here are a few things you can do to help your doctor understand your pain, and collaborate with you for solutions.

Take Note of Your Own Body

Being armed with information is one of the best ways to be proactive about pain. But this doesn’t require encyclopedic internet printouts or endless email chains of advice from your neighborhood chat group. Though research can offer extra information, what may best equip you (and therefore your doctor) is self-awareness.

“Think about the duration and quality of the pain. How you’d describe it if someone asked when it started,” Sana Goldberg, practicing nurse in New Haven, CT, and author of How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine told REWIRE. “If anything has relieved it, and if anything has made it worse. Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ of sorts. The more you can describe it, the better you’re going to be able to work with your physician.”

Pay attention also to how temperature, food, over-the-counter pain medicines and physical activity also impact your pain. All of these details will help paint an even clearer picture, and will help your doctor plan for how to alleviate it.

Coordinate with Caregivers

“When you’re seeing a whole bunch of different specialists, they don’t always talk, which can make the diagnostic process take much longer,” Isabel Mavrides, a Latina disability justice activist and organizer explained to GREATIST. If necessary, bring everyone together in a Zoom or conference call, or even an email chain. Find the format that works best for you and your specialists, to make sure everyone is clearly connected. (Because of HIPAA regulations protecting your privacy, your doctors may then continue the conversation through more secure channels, but now they all know who is on your care team.)

A friend or family member can also help with this task. In fact, asking a trusted loved one to attend appointments with you — to take notes, ask questions, and provide thoughtful and honest feedback to your own fears and reactions in private — may help a great deal.

Ask Questions When You Have Them

Your doctor knows a lot, but she or he doesn’t always know what you want to know. When a question arises, remember that your doctor is a member of your whole-health team who wants to help. In October 2021, U.S. News & World Report shared 17 questions doctors wish their patients would ask, including those around:

  • Preventative care
  • Comprehension of what’s been shared
  • Other trusted sources of information
  • How your family history may impact treatment
  • Specifics around prescriptions
  • How sleep impacts pain and treatment
  • The reason behind tests, and what results will reveal
  • What they do for their own health and well-being

Dr. Ted Epperly, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine underscored the importance of question-asking in Time magazine:  “Asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure you and your doctor are on the same page,” he explained. “And if your doctor doesn’t seem interested in answering, or you get a negative response, you need to find a new doctor.”

Second opinions and finding a better personality fit may also help you solve your challenges. But be sure that, wherever you go, you’re taking the most important person in the conversation seriously — yourself.

At United Physicians Group, we’re here to advocate for and with you. Connect with us online or call (833) 523-0906 for consultation.