If you are ready for your first appointment with a specialist to discuss your pain symptoms, there are a few things that you can do to help you make the most of the time you have with the doctor. This guide has tips that you can employ to make sure that you are prepared, and come away from your appointment feeling empowered and that time was well-spent.
Write out your pain history
• If you started to have pain in your knees when you were a 10 year-old, that is something your doctor will want to know. Think back as far as you can and attempt to write out, in order, all of those random aches and pains that you’ve had over the years.
• In this history, be sure to include any possible pain triggers. For example, you started having deep leg pain after a case of chicken-pox when you were young or pain began after the birth of a child.
Write your past medical history
• Include all of your medications, supplements, herbals, topics, topicals, and over the counter drugs, doses, time of day that you take them, why you take it, and what time of day you take it. There are forms available online that you can print out and there are numerous free apps for med lists. If you aren’t a techie, that’s okay. Simply write your list out.
• Your family medical history can also help your doctor, so be sure to add it. Write down everything, even if you’re not exactly sure what type of arthritis or heart problems a family member may have had. It could be important.
• Your personal medical history is key as well. Include any diagnosed conditions, surgeries, recent visits to the ER or hospital stays. You’ll want to make sure that the new doctor knows who your care team is too, so include your doctors’ names and phone numbers. There are apps that will include your complete medical history and medications list. Take a look and see if there is one that is right for you.
Keep a Symptom/ Pain Diary
• As soon as you learn that you will be heading to a specialist, take the time to make a symptom/ pain diary. This is one of the most important tools that you can give your doctor. You’ll want to include the following:
o Rate your sleep each night on a 0-10 scale. 0 = good, quality sleep; 10 = Insomnia throughout the night.
o Rate your ability to fall asleep on a 0-10 scale. 0 = no problems; 10 = unable to fall asleep.
o Rate your pain on a 0-10 scale. 0 = no pain; 10 = the worst pain imaginable. There are also pain charts available online to print or as apps. With these, there are diagrams and you can select the body parts that are most affected by pain. These are great tools and provide valuable information to docs.
o Rate your “brain fog”. 0 = alert all day; 10 = unable to focus or think clearly all day.
NOTE: Please look for our handy “Symptom Log” You can print it out and just check the boxes for each above item, or check out our "There's an App for That!" discussion with links to great apps for tracking everything. Coming Soon to "Fibro 101"
Make sure that your medical records are sent to the new provider. They will be interested in recent lab values and radiology reports too.
Think about what you would most like to ask the new doctor, and write down a few questions. You will usually have an hour for your first appointment. A lot of that time will be spent reviewing your medical history, discussing why you’re there today, and with examination. In order to get the best answers possible, try to keep your questions brief and direct. Writing them out ahead of time helps you keep to the script. Be sure to write down any notes so that they will help you remember the answers later.
Check out the practice website, and fill out any paperwork ahead of time. You can do the forms at your own pace and make sure that you’ve got everything just right. It will also save you time prior to the appointment, and maybe you won’t need to arrive as early.
Bring a friend. If you are anxious, worried, or it would simply make you more comfortable, bring a friend. It will make your visit more pleasant, and they can help you remember to ask your questions and recall the answers later.
Of course, you also want to be sure that you arrive on time. For first appointments, it’s advisable to be at least 15 minutes early. In fact, some offices require it. Plan ahead for traffic, and any barriers you might encounter along the way.
A little preparation goes a long way. You’ve probably waited some time to get in to see this specialist, so make the most of the time you have. These tips should help you do just that.
Be positive. Be assertive. Be prepared!