What to Ask a Pain Specialist

Prepare a description of your pain for your next appointment

Veteran working with a pain specialistPain isn't just a symptom. Chronic pain can be a condition that lasts for three months or longer, and it can be very hard to diagnose. If you're talking to your doctor about chronic pain, chances are they may refer you to a pain specialist.

To get ready for your appointment, make sure you think about how to describe your pain. Write down your descriptions of how it feels and include questions you'd like answered. Asking questions and discussing treatment options is a first step in dealing with chronic pain.

Understanding your pain

To manage your pain, you need to understand it. 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. Some methods include ultrasounds, sympathetic nerve blocks, or joint injections. 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.

You may end up working with a team of specialists, and this can be most helpful in approaching your pain from many different angles.

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

Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Read More

Communicating About Pain (Veterans Health Library)

Understanding Chronic Pain (Veterans Health Library)

Pain Management (VA)

Updated April 6, 2021