By Ingfei Chen
Straight Talk About Pain
By Ingfei Chen
Since no lab tests can measure pain, patients often have to be their own advocates in speaking up about the problem and demanding relief.
When describing your discomfort, be specific. Where does it hurt? Is the pain dull, sharp, burning? How intense is it on a scale of zero to 10? What makes it better or worse? Explain how pain hinders your ability to sleep, walk or do other activities. Such details will help your health care providers assess the pain and convince them to aggressively remedy it.
Professor of nursing Christine Miaskowski of the University of California, San Francisco, recommends that you record pain symptoms in a daily diary, such as one developed by the American Pain Foundation and available at www.painfoundation.org/Publications/Notebook.pdf. Show your documentation to your nurse or physician.
Miaskowski also teaches patients to succinctly communicate their needs to their health care providers, using a few sentences, such as: “Doctor, I’m calling to tell you that I’ve been having pain that’s been eight or nine on a scale of zero to 10 for the past week. It’s interfering with my ability to play with my grandkids. I’ve been taking the pain medicine the way you prescribed it. It’s not working. We need to do something to improve my pain management.” For a basic script, see nurseweb.ucsf.edu/conf/cancerpain/index.shtml#Disc.
If a doctor ignores your requests for help, find a pain specialist who will work with you.
Eight Facts Everyone Should Know About Cancer Pain and Managing Cancer Pain at www.painfoundation.org.