Living with Chronic Pain

Effectively Explaining Pain to a Health Care Provider


Thoroughly describing chronic pain and symptoms to a health care provider helps to obtain a timely diagnosis and a proper treatment plan.

Maintain a written account of pain

Logging chronic pain over time and sharing it with health care providers provides them with valuable information that aids in diagnosis and treatment. Important information to share with a health care provider includes the following:

  • Location
    Health care providers need to know the location of the pain. Be sure to include as much detail as possible. A good example would be, "The pain starts in the lower back and shoots down the buttocks and into the right leg all the way down to the foot.”
  • Duration and frequency
    Tell the health care provider how long the pain has lasted and how frequent it is felt. This information is a key factor in a diagnosis. Be very clear — state the number of days, months or years.
  • Severity
    Most health care providers use a 1-10 pain scale. Share the level of pain felt the majority of the time.
  • Pain triggers
    Tell the health care provider what activities increase the pain.
  • Past and current treatments and medications
    Share any treatments and/or medications that effectively reduce pain and those that have no effect or increase pain.

Having a pain report readily available ensures that time with a health care provider is spent efficiently. Information regarding location, duration, frequency and severity of pain provides the doctor with valuable information critical for a correct diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

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