stethoscope and phone

Does this happen to you? Every time you go to your pain management healthcare provider

you’re asked, “On a scale of 1-10, what is your pain today?”

You politely give them an answer somewhere between 1-10. If the number is higher than it was

the last time, you may get asked an additional question like, “Why is your number higher than

last time?”


If the number is lower than last time, you may hear, “Oh good! You’re doing better today!”

Neither of the above statements are 100% true. When you’re “How is your pain today?” you’re

probably thinking about that specific moment in time. In other words, at that specific time, how

are you feeling? If you’re like me, this isn’t reflective of how you’re feeling for the day. So how

do you tell your healthcare provider how you really feel? Simple! by communication!


Here are some of my tips I use with my healthcare provider and what I tell my patients as a

Nurse Practitioner.


  1. Be specific. Tell your healthcare provider how you feel in very specific terms. Don’t just

say “My back aches.” Instead, say, “When I stand in one place for longer than 2 minutes,

my lower back really starts to throb.” By giving your healthcare provider specific details

about your pain, your provider has more information that can help him or her give you

the best recommendation.


As a Nurse Practitioner, I want to know what is going on with my patients. If you tell me

that your low back hurts, I want to know when it hurts, what makes it better, what makes

it worse, what have you tried to make it better, and how long this has been going on. By

having all this information, I can provide the best care for you!

  1. Don’t be shy. When I started to have problems with incontinence, I told my provider. I

wanted to know if this was a normal side effect of Adhesive Arachnoiditis or if this was

something else. I also wanted suggestions from my provider on how to manage this side



As a Nurse Practitioner, I promise I will never judge you or embarrass you when you tell

me about your symptoms. I really do want to help you feel better – I can only do this if

you tell me everything that you’re feeling. Also, by providing me the entire list of

symptoms, I can do my best to make things better.

  1. Don’t feel like you’re “bothering” your healthcare provider. If you call your provider’s

office to report a new sign or symptom – of if you’re calling with a question – you’re not

bothering your provider. Even if you saw your provider earlier that day but can’t

remember something that they told you – please call! Your provider is there for you and

to help you.


As a Nurse Practitioner – you’re never bothering me. If I have a patient who is confused

about the treatment I recommended, chances are you’re not going to even try to take it –

and that doesn’t help anyone! And I need to know when you’re having new symptoms –

these may be symptoms that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

By using these 3 simple hints to talk to your healthcare provider, you will form a better

relationship with your healthcare provider that will lead to better pain control for you!



Until next time,

Dr. JB Kirby


  1. This is a great article! It can be intimidating to fully explain what is going on or sometimes I just have brain fog or fatigue. I love how you understand that the pain level we are at is always changing, this is something that is hard for some to grasp. Thank you for letting us know, from your point of view, just how much you really want to know and help your patients.

  2. No healthcare provider has or understands this like you. I have never been seen or treated by any practitioner with any level of empathy or understanding and I have seen many. As a fellow well educated woman I get treated poorly , my complaints dismissed, or labeled. I would like to also thank you for the book it was as if I could have written this myself. At a low point currently and it was a great reminder that I shouldn’t let this control my life. Be well

    1. Hi Tina,
      Thank you for your comment; it literally brought tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry that you get treated poorly. As a female, I’ve been dismissed by pain docs as “being a whiny female.” When one doctor did that to me, I went out to my car, started crying, and then I got mad. I went back into that doctor’s office and started talking very loudly (ok, I was yelling) about what an idiot that doc was and how non-compassionate he was and I told everyone in the waiting room that they should leave! I really thought they were going to call the police on me! They probably thought I was crazy but I didn’t care and it made me feel good. I even filed a complaint against him with the Board of Medicine! I had never been treated so bad in my life!

      I hope you get the understanding and compassion you deserve!

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