Living with Chronic Pain

How to Ask Physicians for an Increase in Pain Medication


Opioid-related stigma is unfortunate, especially for individuals who are prescribed opioids to treat their chronic pain. Stigma is defined as a set of negative beliefs about others with a specific characteristic or trait. Unfortunately, opioid-related stigma can prevent individuals with chronic pain from seeking or receiving adequate treatment. A physician’s personal beliefs about opioids or the individuals who take them can prevent the physician from prescribing adequate pain relief to those who need it. This can cause difficulty in asking about an increase of pain medications. Below are tips to help foster good communication between patient and health care provider.

Be aware of risks and benefits

Increasing pain medications can pose various risks and benefits. Rather than avoiding talking about the risks, assure the provider that research into the potential side effects, interactions, etc., has been done. Let them know that the risks have been weighed against the potential benefits. This shows the physician that these factors are being taken into consideration.

Have a safety plan

In addition to being aware of the risks, consider constructing a safety plan for scenarios that might arise. This could involve having a friend or family member administer the medication, having routine check-ins from another person for signs of tolerance or overdose, or discussing with the provider how to safely taper off of the medication. This shows initiative and investment in one’s own treatment plan.

Be honest about the pain

When describing pain to a provider, people are often vague or omit embarrassing details. Try to be very clear and honest about the pain and how it impacts daily life. For example, if the pain keeps an individual from completing basic tasks or causes difficulty finishing tasks, such as dressing, eating, bathing, toileting, etc., it is important to mention the details to the provider. This can create a clearer understanding of how the pain is impacting daily life.

Don’t wait until the last minute

Discussing pain medication changes requires thought and discussion. It is best to mention it earlier during an appointment, rather than at the end. This allows the physician time to fully discuss the issue and make an informed decision.

Keep an open mind

A medication increase may not be the best option. A provider may suggest a medication change instead of a dosage increase. Try to keep an open mind when it comes to these suggestions, as they may be beneficial.

Consider other options

Prior to asking for an increase in pain medication, consider other possibilities for pain management, such as non-opioids medicine, medication changes, physical therapy, etc. However, if these treatments have been unhelpful in the past, explain why. This can show the provider that other options have been explored.

Additional source: Verywell Health

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