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Five Ways to Make Your Pain Management Visit Less Painful

By Delecia Harris, NP-C
Nurse Practitioner, Shepherd Pain Institute

You have a referral to a pain management office. Now what? If you have not seen a pain management specialist, you may not know what to expect when you arrive for your initial visit. If you have seen a pain specialist in the past, you may have left the visit feeling uncertain or confused about your treatment. How can you get the most out of your visit and make the visits more productive?

Here are five ways you can help your provider help you:

1. Be prepared.

  • Know your history: When you arrive for your visit, be able to specifically discuss your primary pain. If you have multiple pain areas, be able to identify the one that is most bothersome for you. You will be asked questions about your pain, including the location, when it started, how it feels (aching, throbbing, burning, etc.), what makes it better or worse. If you are taking medications, bring the current medications with you to your visit. Before your visit, write down other medications you have tried in the past for pain that either did not help or caused side effects. If you have had any surgeries or procedures for your pain, know the type of surgery/procedure and the dates they were completed. Try to remember if they were helpful and for how long. Your history, along with the physical exam, will be helpful for accurate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
  • Bring records/imaging: If you have any imaging or test results related to your pain, bring this information with you to your visit. This will reduce the likelihood of ordering a test/image that has already been completed.

2. Be involved.

  • Ask questions: Write down any questions you may have for the provider so they can be addressed at your visit. Clarify any recommendations or instructions that are unclear to you.
  • Set goals: What does adequate pain management mean to you? Are there activities you would like to participate in that pain prevents you from doing? What long-term or short-term goals do you have that would be an indication that your pain is adequately controlled? Discuss these with your provider.

3. Be realistic.

You should discuss with your provider what expectations are realistic for you. If you have pain that has persisted for more than six months, it is possible that this pain may be present, to some extent, even with treatment. Pain management generally focuses more on function because it is a more objective indicator of how your pain is affecting your life. You will, most likely, not have 100 percent relief of your pain. The goal of pain management is to restore your function, minimize pain and increase quality of life as much as possible.

4. Be open-minded.

Chronic pain impacts multiple aspects of life, including thought processes, mood and function. Therefore, chronic pain management requires more than one approach. Your provider may refer you to other specialists, such as physical therapists, or recommend you see a psychologist or psychiatrist. Any referrals made by your pain management team are an effort to give you the best outcome.

5. Be patient.

Chronic pain can be a complex process to manage. It may take time for you to see a significant benefit or change in your pain. As the effects of treatment are not always immediate and each patient requires a tailored approach for treatment, patience and flexibility are necessities.

Any ineffective treatments should be discussed with your provider so alternative therapies can be considered.

Remember that you are a partner with your provider in managing your healthcare.Although the provider can diagnose and treat in some ways, there will be some recommendations that only you can do. Commit yourself to working with your provider and doing your part to get the desired result.

Get more information on Shepherd Pain Institute here.

DELECIA HARRIS, NP-C, joined the Shepherd Pain Institute as a nurse practitioner in 2013. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Georgia State University and has been practicing in the pain management specialty since 2008. Her goal for each patient with pain is to empower them to function at their highest potential and have optimal quality of life.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.