How Do I Talk To My Doctor About Pain?



If you have ever been treated for some sort of pain, you know that it involves attending doctor's appointments numerous times. Common questions asked at these appointments include:

  • "How are you feeling?"

  • "How is the pain?"

  • "Can you rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10?"

The numeric pain scale is a common method used for doctors to gauge how their patient is feeling. 0 = no pain at all, while 10 indicates the worst pain you could ever imagine. On the pain scale, a 1-3 rating is considered mild, a 4 to 7 rating is considered moderate, and over 7 is considered severe.


The problem with this pain scale is that it leads to doctors treating their patient based on the number that they report. But research has shown that people rarely admit to their true pain level. With this scale, patients typically low ball because they feel as if rating their pain too high would be an exaggeration. When you low ball your pain level with your doctor, you may not receive the adequate amount of medication needed to help you truly recovery. This could cause your recovery time to be prolonged causing more medical bills and more lost wages. On the contrary, the pain scale can also lead to over treating, which is whole other issue within itself.


So, what should you do? Use your words! Many doctors have realized that the pain scale is not accurate anymore. They are switching from relying on this method to using a method that actually involves words with their patient. Using words to describe pain brings greater specificity to the level of pain.


Tips For Discussing Your Pain With Your Doctor

  • Be Descriptive

Use metaphors to describe how your pain feels. Does it ache? Does it burn? How long does it last? How often does it occur?

  • Compare Your Pain

One way to help your doctor understand your pain level is to actually compare the pain you are currently experiencing to the worst pain you have ever experienced in your life. For example, you could say that the pain is equivalent to child birth, or the pain is a little less severe than a kidney stone. Think of a time that you experienced a substantial amount of pain in your life and compare your current pain to that moment.

  • Describe Your Day

Walk your doctor through your typical day. What do you do for work? Do you exercise daily? What is your daily routine? Talk about these things and talk about where your pain fits into your day-to-day life. Does it pop up when you walk, when you eat, etc.?

  • Talk About Function

After you describe your typical day-to-day schedule with your doctor, explain how your pain interferes with your daily life. Are you in pain doing simple life tasks, such as getting out of bed or getting dressed in the morning? Does it prevent you from being able to do something?

  • Discuss The History

Your doctor should be aware of the history of your pain and your previous treatment. How long has the pain been affecting your life? Has the location of your pain always been the same or does it differ? Has anything ever made the pain subside?


Chronic pain affects the lives of many, whether it be caused by a debilitating disease or some sort of accident or injury. It is important to look past the pain scale and use your words to receive the true treatment that you need to get back on your feet.


Kaufman Law represents victims of car accidents and personal injuries. If you have been involved in an accident or injured, never hesitate to contact our trusted Atlanta firm. With over 40 years of experience, we know how to fight for the rights of our clients.


For more on why doctor's visits are crucial to a car accident claim, read here.

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