How to talk to your Doctor

Hi Everybody,

We get a lot of feedback on how frustrating it can be to try and talk with your doctor.  On the other hand, we know how frustrating it can be, at times, as doctors to try and talk with patients.

Here is a little primer on how doctors think and how best to get him or her the information you need so that you can heal.  Please know, however, that if you have a doctor that is simply not interested in you, there is nothing you can do but switch to a doctor that will be.

JUST THE FACTS PLEASE- As a patient, when we hurt or don’t feel good, it becomes an emotional situation.  We want somebody to sympathize and empathize with us.  This is completely natural, and a good doctor knows that this is part of the healing process.  You should be able to complain to your doctor about how bad your problem is and how it has affected you.

For some patients, however, this part takes over completely and makes it almost impossible to get usable facts.  In this case, it can become unbelievably frustrating for a doctor.  Patients are lined up in the waiting room and he (or she) has somebody in front of him that he simply cannot get any usable facts out of, only emotions.  This actually happens many times throughout the day and sooner or later many doctors become desensitized, begin to lose their patience, and may even seem callous or uncaring.

THE PAIN PERSONALITY The height of this type of problem can be seen in a person with chronic pain.  People with chronic pain become so emotional over their pain that is seems to drive their personalities.  All they seem to be able to think or talk about is their pain.

If you have never been in this situation yourself, please know this is totally normal.  Any person, no matter who you are, will eventually develop this personality if they hurt bad enough and long enough because the pain literally begins to control your life and how you live it.  Being able to express how bad the problem is helps quite a bit, and is definitely a part of the coping process.  This is why joining a support group is so helpful – it gives you a chance to express how you feel to others that are in the same boat and understand what you are going through.

However, people that have the “pain personality” often become very hard to help. They have developed traits that makes further suffering very probable because of several reasons:  they have become so emotional that giving their caregiver the information they need to help is very difficult; they become overly emotional and negative and start believing nothing will work; and they tend to “doctor hop”, not staying with any one doctor long enough for them to be able to figure them out or to follow through with a course of care.

SOLUTION No matter how emotional you feel about your problem, try making a list of facts describing what is bothering you. Be direct. For example, if your back hurts try to isolate exactly where so you can point to the exact point for your doctor. If you know how you injured it, write that down as well.  If certain movements irritate the pain, write that down.  This way you can read off usable information about your condition without letting your emotions confuse the facts.

If the doctor asks questions, try to answer directly – they are asking for a reason.  If he or she asks if the pain runs down your leg, try to answer yes or no rather than going into a long story about it.  So often when a doctor asks a question, the question is never actually answered because the patient will start talking emotionally, giving information that doesn’t help the doctor know how to proceed.  For example, how the pain was so bad last night they couldn’t sleep, etc.

Lastly, it is ok to get emotional.  Pain is an emotional experience.  Any doctor worth their salt understands this and will offer you compassion. The problem comes when emotion takes over completely and gets in the way of treatment and healing.

Hope this helps,

Dr Matt and Dr Robin (email)

This week’s bit of Useless Information:  Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when the family dairy cow ate poisonous mushrooms and Mrs. Lincoln drank the milk.

This email is courtesy of Matthew Barnes, D.C. and Robin Barnes, D.C.  Neither this nor any of our emails are intended to be medical advice and should not be taken as such.  They are opinion and are for informational purposes only.  None of the nutrients discussed here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

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