Talking with Your Provider About Chronic Pain Treatment
Treatment may not make your pain disappear. But in most cases, medications, therapy, or a combination of the two can provide significant relief and help you lead a full life.
Your healthcare provider will give you advice on controlling your pain—but the final decision on treatment is up to you. It’s important to understand all the choices available to you and how they might fit into your life. When discussing treatments, ask your provider questions such as:
1. What are my options?
Pain is a complex condition. No one treatment works for everyone, and you will likely have more than one choice when it comes to pain control. Ask your provider to lay out all the possibilities. They should explain the safety of each one and offer opinions on where you might consider starting.
2. What will this medicine do? And how exactly should I take it?
A wide variety of medicines can help relieve pain, from over-the-counter acetaminophen to prescription-only opioids such as oxycodone. Like all treatments, each medicine comes with benefits and risks.
If your provider prescribes or recommends a medicine, ask them to explain all the details. You’ll want to know, for instance:
How long should I take the medicine? What should I do if I run out?
How often should I take the medicine?
Are there changes I need to make to my lifestyle? What precautions do I need to take? For instance, should I avoid alcohol? Can I drive or operate machinery?
Should I take this medicine with food or water?
What side effects should I watch for? And what should I do if I notice them?
Will this medicine interact with any of my other medicines, including over-the-counter drugs or supplements?
3. Does this medicine pose a risk for addiction?
Oxycodone and other narcotics can become habit-forming for some people. It’s important to tell your provider if you or a family member has a history of substance abuse.
4. When should I feel better? And what should I do if I don’t?
Most fast-acting pain relievers take an hour or less to have an effect. If sufficient time has passed and your pain isn’t reduced, do not take another dose. Call you provider instead—they might want to try another option.
5. How much will it cost?
Some treatments or medicines cost more than others. If you have financial concerns, ask your provider about assistance programs. They will also be able to help you understand whether your treatment is covered by your insurance.
6. Where can I turn if I need more support?
Your provider can guide you through the maze of pain treatment options. But sometimes, you may want a little more assistance with the emotional and social aspects of pain. Your provider may be able to refer you to a support group or mental health professional for help coping.