Chronic pain is something that stumps doctors and patients alike. It is a growing problem, yet it affects each person in very different ways.
It’s important to make sure you’re communicating with your doctor and other medical staff how your pain affects you personally. Here are some tips to help you tell other people about your chronic pain in a way that will get results. It begins with self-advocacy.
What is Self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy is your own representation to medical staff. It opens up a conversation with your physician about your chronic pain, instead of being directed by them to determine your treatment route.
Your doctor appreciates self-advocacy, as it can help them to understand which treatment options are right for you. If you don’t speak up, you could miss out on potential treatments that may help your chronic pain.
Advocacy Doesn’t Mean Going it Alone
If you don’t feel confident speaking up about your experiences and rights as a patient, there are others who can do it for you. This person is called an advocate. A pain advocate is someone who can speak on your behalf to medical staff or other people who need to be educated about your chronic pain experiences.
An advocate doesn’t have to be a trained professional. It can be any individual willing to speak on your behalf. They must have a clear understanding of your chronic pain condition and how it affects you, and the result you would like from any consultations.
For example, if you feel strongly about not using opiate painkillers to reduce pain, you or your advocate can make this clear. This opens up other treatment options that your medical advisor may not have considered otherwise, such as Biowave’s natural pain relief device, which uses electrical stimulation instead of medication.
Tips for Effective Pain Advocacy
Be Honest About Your Pain
It’s often tempting to downplay your pain because you don’t want to feel like you’re complaining or that your pain might not be considered bad compared to other people.
Your pain is valid. It is real. Speak up about it!
If you don’t tell your doctor, or your advocate, how your pain really affects you, then your treatment options may be more limited, and the ones you try could be less effective for your true pain levels.
Keep a Diary
Keep a daily diary over the course of a month to track how often you feel pain, how intense it is, and what triggers cause more intense pain than usual. Take this diary to your medical appointments as a representation of pain patterns, as well as how you’re responding to current treatments.
You may also like to use this to record how the pain made you feel—emotionally. Pain has a strong link with mental health and wellbeing, and this is something your doctor, or your advocate, needs to know in order to give you the best, most effective help possible.
Educate Yourself About Pain Research and Treatments
It is easier to talk to your doctors about trying different treatments when you know what may or may not be available to you. A good place to start is by using the resources provided by pain advocacy organizations, such as the International Association for the Study of Pain, which also links to many other useful patient advocacy centers.
Learn About Self-care for Your Condition
Understanding your pain—really understanding it—will help you take steps to manage it at home. Doctors will often recommend self-care, such as rest and ice on swollen joints for example, before offering other treatment options.
Above all else, educate yourself, take care of yourself and speak up for yourself and your pain. When you are clear about the pain management techniques you’re already using, as well as those that may be available to you, you’re helping your doctor help you.