How Does Your Chronic Pain Affect You?
Beyond the severity and the type of chronic pain, there's a third factor you need to discuss. "It's really important to talk to your doctor about how your pain affects your life," says Savage. It's a crucial and often overlooked detail.
When a person comes into a doctor's office complaining of chronic pain, many doctors focus only on the cause. Obviously, treating any underlying condition or disease is important. But your doctor also needs to focus on the symptom that brought you into the office: pain.
Savage says that you should think about the specific ways your chronic pain is affecting you. Does pain wake you up at night? Has chronic pain made you change your habits? Do you no longer go on walks because the pain is too severe? Has it affected your performance on the job -- maybe even putting your ability to work in jeopardy?
Giving specifics about how your chronic pain is impinging on your life and changing your behavior is key, Savage says. "It helps your doctor understand how much you're suffering and appreciate the pain as a problem that needs treatment," she tells WebMD.
Getting the Right Chronic Pain Treatment
Often, chronic pain is really more than just pain; it's a constellation of related symptoms and conditions. You might need treatment not only for the pain, but for the underlying cause. You might also need treatment for other problems that developed as a result of your pain -- sleep problems, depression, anxiety, or secondary pain.
"Treating chronic pain is not as simple as taking a single medication," Savage says. "It's more of an ongoing process." To control pain, it often takes a number of different experts working together. That could include your GP, a pain specialist, a physical therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist, other specialists -- and you.
"The patient is really the most important member of the team," Savage says. While doctors can offer possible treatments for your chronic pain, only you can tell how well they're working.
"Patients who have the 'fix me, Doc' idea tend to do poorly," says Ferrante. Instead, you need to take an active role in your medical care. Be ready to talk about your chronic pain and how it affects you -- and be prepared to advocate for yourself, even in the face of doubt.
"You can't listen to the people who doubt the pain you're feeling," Ferrante tells WebMD. "You can't give in to their negativity. You must have faith in yourself and keep trying to get the right treatment."