What to Ask a Pain Specialist

Prepare a description of your pain for your next appointment

A Veteran talking with her specialist about her pain management planPain isn't just a symptom. Chronic pain can last for months or longer, and can be very hard to diagnose. Your doctor may even refer you to a pain specialist.

The first steps to dealing with chronic pain are asking questions and discussing treatment options. When getting ready for your appointment, think about how you'd describe your pain. Write down your descriptions. And make notes of any questions you have.

Understanding your pain

To manage your pain, you need to understand it. You can use the Track Health tool to record when you feel pain, and how intense it is. Start by asking these questions:

  • When did the pain start? Does it come and go?

  • What else was going on when the pain started?

  • Is the pain dull, sharp, burning, or something else?

  • When do you feel the pain?

  • Is there a pattern to your pain?

  • Does anything ease your pain?

Finding your pain source

Your pain specialist will ask you about your pain. After talking about when and where you feel pain, you'll work together to find a diagnosis. To make sure you find the reason for your pain, make sure you ask these questions:

  • How will you find the cause of my pain?

  • Do you have a backup plan if the tests don't work?

Sometimes there are no clear answers why you have pain. That does not mean it can't be treated. There are many different options for managing chronic pain, and living a meaningful life with it.

Discussing treatment plans

Once you've learned why you're feeling pain, it's time to talk treatment. Treatments for chronic pain include therapies and medications. The specialist will recommend next steps, but ask these questions to make sure you know what to do:

  • What pain management options are the safest?

  • Would lifestyle changes help ease my pain?

  • Are there any alternative therapies you'd recommend?

  • Will treatment require frequent doctor visits or future surgery?

Remember: Getting a diagnosis for your chronic pain can be difficult. Pain specialists help create pain management plans, and it helps to come prepared. These questions will guide you to creating a pain management plan.

If treating your pain from different angles is the most helpful approach, you may end up working with a team of specialists

You can begin by signing in to My HealtheVet and sending a secure message to your health care team.

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Read More

Treat Your Pain at VA

Understanding Chronic Pain (Veterans Health Library)

Pain Management (VA)

Updated April 6, 2021