Ways to understand your own pain before booking a doctor’s appointment
It’s important for individuals to have the ability to describe their pain before heading to the GP. This prevents repeat appointments and misdiagnosis. Tracking when the pain occurs, identifying triggers and learning how to describe the feeling can lead to a faster diagnosis — but where do you begin?
Similarly, an increasing number of people are understanding the benefits of visiting a complementary therapist, using natural supplements and making lifestyle changes that can improve health conditions.
But whatever approach you take, and it may well be a combination of all these options, understanding your own pain is an essential first step.
Step 1: Understanding the type of pain
If we think generally, pain can be described as an unpleasant sensation that has a range of triggers. It can be felt in a range of ways and be caused by a variety of factors. Because of the broad definition of pain, it’s important that you understand as much as possible about your own pain to help you describe it to others.
Did you know that there are two main categories of pain? These are acute and chronic. Acute pain is short term and is often felt as a severe or sudden pain that eases with time. Opposite to this is chronic pain, which is persistent and can last for months — this is a recognised condition.
You next need to try and find the source of the pain. Your pain typically falls under one of the following categories:
- Neuropathic pain (nerve-injury)
- Radicular pain (pain travels down the path of the nerve)
- Somatic pain (caused by stimulation of pain receptors on the surface of the body or in musculoskeletal tissues)
- Myofascial pain (a type of somatic pain, associated with muscle pain)
- Visceral pain (relating to the internal organs)
Follow the next steps to categorise your pain more accurately, better understand the cause, and find a treatment with the help of your GP.
Step 2: Identifying triggers
You may not have considered the trigger of your pain, it can be a range of things. Identifying triggers can help you avoid them in the future and learn how to deal with them. You might find that your pain is associated with the following:
- Anxiety and stress
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Temperature change
- Inflammatory food
Step 3: Determining pain intensity
Try to monitor the intensity of your pain. A basic pain level chart is usually a scale of 1 to 10 that ranges from no pain to moderate pain to the worst possible pain. You can find a detailed explanation of each stage of the scale here.
Step 4: Tracking your pain
How should you track your pain? Ultimately, it’s whatever works for you, There are apps out there, such as CatchMyPain which allows you to draw the location and intensity of your pain on a model, track happiness and fatigue along with other features. Or, you might decide to create your own diary in a notepad. For this idea, just remember to make note of:
- The date and time you feel the pain
- How long it lasted
- Location of the pain
- Intensity of pain
- Any potential triggers
- Any treatment you used
Step 5: Can you treat it at home?
You might be able to treat your pain at home. Of course, if a pain persists, it is always best to seek medical advice.
If it’s a painful injury that you’ve recently incurred, try the RICE method as soon as you can. This stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate and this technique works to keep swelling down.
There are over-the-counter anti-inflammatories which include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They work well to treat muscle pain and inflammation injuries such as sprains or to provide shoulder pain relief. Always read the instructions before administrating medication yourself though. Medication that has few serious side effects include gels, creams and sprays that are available from supermarkets and the pharmacy. These work by relieving the pain orally and are often used to treat muscle, tendon and joint pain.
Step 6: Knowing what to say
Be prepared before you head to your appointment. This way, you don’t forget to mention a specific symptom and reduce the risk of a misdiagnosis. Show your doctor or therapist your pain tracker and have bullet points prepared that you can discuss — this could be triggers that you’ve identified and any treatments that you’ve tried at home.
As we can see, getting to know your pain is the first step in treating it. Follow our 6-step guide and try to find the best treatment for you and your needs.