Health management is a multi-faceted concept that plays a large role in your daily life, whether you realize it or not. One of the major aspects of successful health maintenance is self-advocacy. For those who don’t know, self-advocacy means playing an active role in the upkeep of your health. This is especially crucial for individuals living with chronic pain, as there are many aspects of their particular conditions - both small and large - that need to be addressed at any given time. Self-advocacy may be natural for some people who are more outspoken, but it can certainly be taught (and practiced) to introverts. Here are some of the basics of self-advocacy as part of your journey toward chronic pain relief.
1. Be honest
Being forthcoming about all of your habits, lifestyle, and symptoms is one of the best ways you can start off (and maintain) a relationship with any healthcare provider. And by all, we really mean all information related to your pain. Some people may be shy or fearful about disclosing certain details. But, in order to get a full picture of your pain, providers need you to discuss sex, drug use, alternative medicine, the effectiveness of current treatment, and hesitancy about certain modalities. It’s even important to speak up and say that certain topics are not applicable to your life.
2. Keep a log of everything
Even though pain is a large part of your life, it may be difficult to distinguish one day’s symptoms from the next. This is especially the case if you go long periods of time between your appointments or you have several providers. Recording every symptom you experience each day is a really helpful (and underrated) tool to encourage the accurate relay of information. You can make it a part of your nightly routine and either log symptoms in a notebook with the date or add them to an app on your phone. Here is a good way to log what you experience:
Pain (1-10) - Swelling - Sleep - Water intake - Caffeine intake Exercise - Social outings - Meds taken - Other pain management used
3. Form a community
Support comes in many shapes and forms. Having a community of people with common goals is largely important for sharing advice and feeling a sense of belonging. This should also extend to your relationship with your healthcare providers. Individuals need to form an alliance with such professionals from the start, as this sets the tone for the rest of treatment and encourages open communication and mutual respect.
4. Ask questions
Inevitably, you will be confused by something your provider says. Maybe they threw in some medical jargon you don’t understand or didn’t explain your aftercare well enough. In such
instances, you will need to ask questions to best understand how you should proceed with their recommendations until your next appointment. Not asking questions related to medications, including dosages, schedules, and how to take it, can even prove dangerous. In these and other situations, being extremely clear about how to use each prescription with associated restrictions is huge.
5. Keep your own medical records
If you are someone who has many medical records across various providers, this can especially cut down on wait times. By keeping personal copies of your medical records, including evaluations, therapy and surgical notes, treatments provided, and medications lists (with timelines and updates), you will be able to give your current providers the information they need right away. This also eliminates giving misinformation due to not remembering correctly and wait times that may result from requesting medical records across several states.
6. Follow recommendations
Your providers are qualified, educated, and skilled professionals in their field. As such, the plan of care they create for you is intended to help alleviate your symptoms and - hopefully - address the root cause of your pain. However, providers also make recommendations for general wellness checks and health screenings as part of their job. While you might find them annoying, redundant, or unnecessary as they don’t relate to your current concerns, they are in place for a reason. Preventive screenings are meant to do just that: offer a general view into your health to catch early-stage concerns (if they arise) and prevent further complications from ensuing.
7. Speak up if you feel mistreated
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you can only get the right care if you are honest when you don’t feel you’re getting what you need. This may be one of the most difficult steps of self-advocacy to take but it will pay dividends in you finding qualified providers who you are comfortable with and who give you exactly what you need to find chronic pain relief.
Self-advocacy begins and ends with you. It is within your power to practice such skills when you visit doctors and other providers, but it all starts by being part of a community and learning how to get the care you need for chronic pain relief.
Reach out today to become part of the Pain Mentor community and learn about planning to relieve your chronic pain!