In an ideal world, you’ll leave your doctor’s office with a well-defined plan for managing your chronic pain. You’ll have good answers to all of the questions you asked during your visit, and you’ll truly understand the issues surrounding your pain. But this is unlikely to happen if your doctor is on a tight schedule. When a doctor is only allotted twelve to fifeen minutes per patient, she must rush through a list of required items before even considering anything else. And because everything must now be documented on a computer, many doctors spend much of the visit typing on a keyboard, when they should be communicating with the patient.
For patients, trying to get information from their doctors or asking about a new treatment approach can be difficult; most doctors don’t let their patients talk for more than 10 to 15 seconds before they interrupt them. And most are focused on the pills and procedures they studied in medical school, which they continue to use every day.
To make the most of your time with your doctor, gear the conversation toward your goals. Discuss what you hope to accomplish through treatment. Think about the five key goals that were discussed in Chapter 4: mobility, interaction, independence, validation, and love. Write them on a piece of paper (along with any other goals you might have) and refer to it when talking to your doctor.
Yoga Exercises For Back Pain Getting Through to Your Doctor Photo Gallery
Then explain your biggest concerns to your doctor and why they bother you, but resist the temptation to rattle off a litany of symptoms and complaints. One of my long-time patients comes in every few months just to tell me she is worse. That’s all she says, which is not very helpful to me. Naturally you need to report the things that are bothering you, but your entire visit can be eaten up by your complaints and your doctor’s response, which will likely be writing prescriptions for you. In short, if you want your visits to be more meaningful and impactful, focus as much as possible on your goals.
Here are some tips for communicating more effectively with your doctors:
• Be specific. Focus on the real-life problems you need help with. For example, if your back hurts too much for you to prepare meals, spend some time analyzing the situation before you arrive. Break down the mechanics, tell your doctor how high your counter tops are and how heavy your pots and pans are. Physically show your doctor what happens when you engage in this activity to paint a more vivid picture that will improve your doctor’s appreciation of the situation.
• Don’t be afraid. Your doctor should make you feel that you can ask about anything that pertains to your health. If she uses a term you don’t understand, ask her to explain it in layman’s terms, so there are no misunderstandings. Touchy subjects like sex can be harder to bring up, but if you don’t ask, she won’t be able to help you. If you simply don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor, consider finding someone else.
• Drop the agenda. Instead of going into an appointment thinking that your doctor needs to increase your dosage of pain medication—or else!—let him know that you are struggling with your pain, and list the specific ways in which you are struggling. Then be open-minded about discussing different methods of controlling that pain; for example, trying a new way to calm down a bad bout of sciatica.
• Be prepared. Bring a list of questions and concerns with you to your appointment so you can go over them with your doctor. But try not to overload her with too many questions during one visit. Always begin with the most important ones, to make sure they will be addressed.
• See the forest. Keep the vision of recovery foremost in your mind. Getting stuck in the details can cause you and your doctor to lose sight of what you are really trying to accomplish. Periodically remind him of what the big picture looks like to you, so he doesn’t lose sight of the major goal.
• Ask the “Golden Question. ” Ask your doctor if she would recommend a certain treatment or medication to her own mother or spouse, if they were suffering from your problem. Doctors should only recommend what they believe is viable for themselves and the significant people in their lives. If the answer isn’t a quick and firm “yes,” you’ll know there is a problem
• Share gratitude. Yes, you are seeing your doctor because you don’t feel well and need help. But don’t forget to let her know about any positives, things that the treatment has improved. For your doctor, getting a “thank you” can be priceless.
• Be social. Most doctors love to learn interesting things about their patients—their lives, careers, and families. We also appreciate it when you ask how we are doing and see us as human beings.