Talking to the Doctor About Your Pain (Part II)

If you’ve been in severe pain for a while, you’ve probably tried a lot of the “over-the-counter” remedies that are available to you without a doctor’s prescription: OTC pain medication, heat packs, ice packs, maybe you’ve even tried a back brace. If none of that is helping, you can start to feel a little bit desperate for relief. It’s important, however, to be strategic when you begin a conversation with your doctor about prescription pain medication. Doctors tend to be cautious about prescribing this type of medication, because it is highly regulated, and accidentally prescribing to drug addicts can result in a physician losing their license. While you are looking for the most comprehensive and effective treatment for your pain, you can benefit from keeping the doctor’s concerns in mind. Try following the steps below:

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 2.25.07 PM.png
  • Let the doctor lead the conversation about course of treatment. Requesting a specific procedure or self-diagnosing can make the doctor defensive. Remember, doctors are only human; they’re just as subject to ego and insecurity as the rest of us. You’re better off exercising some patience while the doctor develops and revises a treatment strategy based on their medical expertise. Ask questions, raise any concerns you have, but don’t request specific new medications or treatments. This can be frustrating at first, but in the long run it should keep the doctor on your side and lead to a higher quality of care.
  • Building on the above, asking for pain meds outright will send up a red flag for the doctor - they probably don’t really know you well as a person, and - as you have no doubt experienced by now - pain is hard to prove. Requesting a specific opioid medication will come across as drug-seeking behavior. Be open to trying other forms of treatment suggested by the doctor before taking pain medication, as it is a last resort treatment.
  • Don’t offer the information that you are not a drug user or addict in an attempt to allay suspicion, as this can have the opposite effect: the doctor may assume you actually are.
  • Above all, don’t give up on finding a solution to make your pain more manageable. If, after multiple visits where you thoroughly document your issues, your doctor is not effectively trying to help you find relief, you may want to consider building a new relationship with a different physician, and possibly seeking the care of a pain specialist. Stay positive and believe in yourself, and make sure you have a team of providers who believe in you too.

Combining these steps and strategies should provide a good foundation for talking to your doctor about your pain; be patient, stay positive, and keep an open mind. There is definitely a path to greater comfort and reduced pain in your life.