What Questions to Ask a Pain Management Doctor?


In many cases, chronic pain can be managed with the right treatment. Once someone selects a pain management doctor for help finding relief, it is important to prepare for the appointment by preparing a list of questions to ask the doctor. Since many people experience nervousness when seeing a physician, preparing the questions ahead of time ensures the patient gets the desired information.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 50 million Americans experiencing chronic pain. Each year, millions of people decide to find a pain management clinic in the hope of getting a treatment plan that will bring some relief.

Two of the most common types of pain are lower back and neck pain, but pain can occur in any place of the body. It can be specific or generalized. Pain can be due to an injury, disease, a failed surgery or an unknown cause.

Asking the physician questions is important to ensure you have the information needed to make good decisions about the physician to choose and the options for treatment.

Pain management questions include, but are not limited to:

• What kind of training do you have in pain diagnosis and management?

• What types of diagnostic tests will be ordered?

• What are the treatment options?

• Are their treatment options besides medications?

• Can you do image-guided procedures, if necessary, or would I need to see one or more other doctors?

• Will other health specialists be consulted?

• What are the next steps if the recommended treatment does not work?

• Are their self-care options that can supplement medications, physical therapy, etc.?

• What supplements to take for spine health?

Questions the Physician May Ask You

What can you expect from a pain management doctor? The physician will first have pain management questions for patients during the initial medical appointment. The goal is to get as full an understanding as possible of the pain experienced and the possible causes. The description you give the physician serves as a reference point for designing the diagnostic plan followed by a treatment plan.

Typical questions include:

• Can you describe your pain in detail as to how it feels?

• Does anything you do make it feel worse or better?

• When did the pain start and was it after an event like a fall or car wreck?

• What treatments have you already tried?

• Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1-10?

• Are you able to continue working?

• Does your pain cause you to feel anxious or distressed?

• Has your pain interfered with any of your normal life activities?

• Can I contact your doctors to obtain more information about your past medical history?

• Do you have any diagnosed medical diseases, i.e. diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, etc?

The physician will ask a number of pain questions that supplement a physical examination. All the information is put together to guide the physician on what medical tests to order to assist with a diagnosis. They include blood work, MRI, CAT scan and x-rays.

Other Ways to Prepare for Your Appointment

Being prepared to ask and answer pain questions during the medical appointment is important to get the most benefit from the visit with the doctor. There are other ways to prepare for the appointment too:

• Visit the physician’s website to investigate the doctor’s philosophy on pain management, i.e. injections, pain medications, surgery, etc.

• Make a list of critical health information the physician should know about, like past surgeries, diseases, allergies, etc.

• List known family diseases, i.e. type and who has it (mother, father, sibling, etc.)

• Obtain copies of previous imaging tests or the results to share with the doctor

• List the current medications you are taking by name, dosage, and quantity taken each day

• Document the history of the pain, i.e. when it began; whether it got worse over time; anything you discovered that brings some relief; etc.

• Maintain a pain diary until the appointment, describing in detail the pain experience, i.e. time of day, an activity that triggers pain, how the pain feels (throbbing, constant ache, burning, localized, general, radiate), the intensity of the pain, constant or intermittent, etc.

• Be prepared to give concrete examples of how the pain has interfered with your normal life activities (could provide more clues as to the source of pain)

• Be prepared to rate your pain on a scale of 1-to-10 with 10 being the worst pain

Moving Ahead with Pain Management

After the doctor evaluates the diagnostic tests ordered, taking into consideration your description of the pain, you can then ask:

• Did you determine a specific cause of the pain?

• Has your suggested treatment successfully eased the pain in other patients?

• If unable to pinpoint the cause of pain, can you still suggest a pain management plan?

• What are the realistic expectations of my pain management?

• How can I personally modify my lifestyle to reduce pain?

• Can the pain ever be fully eliminated?

• If this treatment plan does not work, are there other things we can try?

Follow the physician’s treatment plan closely, keep all medical appointments and continue to keep a pain diary. Keeping the physician fully informed is important to ensure the treatment plan is as effective as possible. Some pain management is psychological, so it is also important to keep a positive perspective.

Originally appeared on blog

Majid Ghauri, MD Interventional Pain Management Specialist. Medical Director and Founder of Spine and Pain Clinics of North America (SAPNA)