When the pain occurs, identifying triggers and learning how to describe the feeling can lead to a faster diagnosis — but where do you begin? It’s important that you know as much about your pain as possible before heading to your GP, as this prevents repeat appointments and misdiagnosis.
Step 1: What type of pain is it?
Because of the broad definition of pain, it’s important that you understand as much as possible about your own pain to help you describe it to others. Thinking generally however, pain is an unpleasant sensation that is hard to ignore. It can be felt in a range of ways and be caused by a variety of factors.
There are two main categories of pain, which are acute and chronic, but what is the difference? Acute pain is short term and is often felt as a severe or sudden pain that eases with time. Opposite to this is chronic pain, which is persistent and can last for months — this is a recognised condition.
Another way to understand pain is to determine the source. Your pain typically falls under one of the following categories:
By following the next steps, you should be able to categorise your pain more accurately, better understand the cause, and find a treatment with the help of your GP.
Step 2: Are there any identifiable triggers?
Identifying triggers can help you avoid them in the future and learn how to deal with them. You may be surprised to learn about the many triggers of pain, as your environment can cause pain without you even realising.
You might find that your pain is associated with the following:
Step 3: How intense is the pain?
Measuring your pain intensity allows you to recognise when it gets worse and the potential triggers of this.
A basic pain level chart is usually a scale of 1 to 10 that ranges from no pain to moderate pain to the worst possible pain. You can find a detailed explanation of each stage of the scale here.
Step 4: Make sure you track your pain!
The next step in understanding pain is to recognise when it’s happening, as this can help you monitor your triggers and determine if certain things make the pain better or worse.
What’s the best way to track your pain? Ultimately, it’s whatever works for you, There are apps out there, such as CatchMyPain which allows you to draw the location and intensity of your pain on a model, track happiness and fatigue along with other features. Or, you might decide to create your own diary in a notepad. For this idea, just remember to make note of:
Step 5: Do you know if you can you treat it at home?
When you’ve determined the cause and triggers of your pain, you might find that there are some ways to relieve it at home. Of course, if a pain persists, it is always best to seek medical advice.
If it’s a painful injury that you’ve recently incurred, try the RICE method as soon as you can. This stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate and this technique works to keep swelling down.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. They work well to treat muscle pain and inflammation injuries such as sprains. Always read the instructions before administrating medication yourself though.
Medication that has few serious side effects include gels, creams and sprays that are available from supermarkets and the pharmacy. These work by relieving the pain orally and are often used to treat muscle, tendon and joint pain.
Step 6: Knowing what to say
It’s a good idea to prepare what you want to say before your doctors appointment occurs. This way, you don’t forget to mention a specific symptom and reduce the risk of a misdiagnosis.
Show your doctor your pain tracker and have bullet points prepared that you can discuss — this could be triggers that you’ve identified and any treatments that you’ve tried at home.
It’s important to note that getting to know your pain is the first step in treating it. Follow our 6-step guide and try to find the best treatment for you and your needs.