Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in determining your pain management plan. There is no single test or imaging study to make a diagnosis of the different types of arthritis. Your doctor will use a combination of your medical history, your description of symptoms, a physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging tests to make a diagnosis.
Talking with and listening to your doctors is important for you to get the best diagnosis and treatment plan. Research shows that people who feel at ease talking with their doctor are more likely to do what the doctor recommends and take prescribed medications than people who don’t ask questions and share their thoughts or concerns.
Openness and honesty are key. If you don’t discuss the intensity or frequency of your pain, or how much the pain is affecting your life, your doctor won’t be able to help you as much as you need and deserve. Expressing your needs does not make you a “whiner.”
A trusting relationship with your health-care provider may require you to have uncomfortable conversations. Do your treatment goals and expectations match with your doctor’s goals? If you’re not on the same page, you need to be willing to talk it through. You’ll also have to be open about what’s been happening with you between appointments. Have you been exercising as recommended? Are you trying supplements or alternative therapies your doctor is unaware of? Are you having challenges at home or work? Are you feeling depressed?
As you prepare for your next doctor visit, think about these questions and make notes to take to the appointment:
- How would you describe your pain? Try to use only one or two words. Examples include aching, throbbing, stabbing, tender or nagging.
- When do you have pain? Note if it worsens at certain times of the day or after particular activities.
- Do you experience symptoms other than pain on a regular basis? Note other symptoms such as stomach upset, fatigue, sleep problems or emotional issues.
- When did your pain begin? Can you relate the onset of your pain to another event in your life, such as a birth of a child, holiday, surgery or injury?
- What are all the things you do to relieve your pain? Tell your doctor about everything you’ve tried: medicines, physical activity, relaxation, acupuncture, prayer or others.
- How are you feeling emotionally? Tell your doctor if you are anxious, stressed or depressed.