Pain drives us to seek fast solutions. Pain medications are often seen as the answer and can bring rapid relief. But ALL drugs have potential side-effects, whilst NO drug is a long-term solution if its job is solely to reduce pain. Also, stopping/changing meds can bring unwanted, withdrawal symptoms.
So it’s very important that you understand what treatment your doctor is recommending and why – particularly if they recommend pain medication.
Below are questions that NICE (the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2020) recommend you ask your doctor if you’re talking to them about treatment for neuropathic pain: They’re also a good starting point for other treatments/meds that you’re offered for other types of pain.
- What is causing the pain?
- What can I do to manage the pain?
- Can you tell me why you’ve decided to offer me this particular type of treatment over others?
If meds are being prescribed …
- What is this particular drug? (If offered an antidepressant or an anti-epileptic drug: Why are you offering me this drug for my pain?)
- What are the possible benefits and risks of taking this particular drug?
- What sort of improvements might I expect in my symptoms and everyday life?
- When should I start to feel better, and what should I do if I don’t start to feel better by then?
- What are the possible side effects, and what should I do if I get any of these?
- When should I take my medication?
- How long will I need to take the medication for?
- If there are changes in medication dose: Why is the dose being increased/decreased?
- Might I have problems when I stop taking this medication?
- What other options are available for me apart from drugs?
- If you are curious about, tempted to take, or taking unlicensed drugs: Can you tell me more about off-label drugs?
At the end:
- What should I do if the pain becomes unbearable?
- When will my next appointment with you be?
For many reasons, it can be difficult to say or ask what you want when with your doctor. So, prepare and practice what you want to say: Maybe write your questions down and take them with you.
But Also Remember:
Research shows that pain is not an accurate sign of tissue damage – particularly as time goes by. Think of someone who has had amputation surgery but still feels ‘phantom limb pain.’ Or the person in a life-threatening situation who doesn’t realise they’re injured as they don’t feel pain. Instead, pain science shows that the brain plays a powerful role in pain making.
If you have pain, your should always see your GP/physio to check for ‘red flags’, i.e., to ensure that you don’t have a serious disorder, e.g., infection, cancer, fracture.
But thereafter you can reduce and better manage pain by understanding why we feel pain and what you specifically need to do to reduce it. This has been shown to be more effective than taking pain meds if you have chronic pain (i.e., pain for more than 3 months), and might also be useful in preventing acute pain from becoming chronic.
We hope this article has been of interest and helpful.