Speaking up and self-advocating can be tough. But when you are suffering from acute or chronic pain, it’s important to cultivate the confidence for self-advocacy so you can get the treatment you need. Employing self-advocacy at the doctor makes it easier for your healthcare provider to understand exactly what you’re experiencing and in turn deliver the care you deserve.
It’s easier said than done – doctor appointments can be intimidating, and you might be a bit shy or scared to share all your symptoms. Remember, your doctor’s goal is to treat your pain and empower you with the tools you need to take control and better manage your pain. That’s why advocating for yourself with your doctor is so important to help your provider understand what you’re going through and formulate a treatment plan.
Here are tips for becoming a savvier self-advocate during your next doctor’s appointment – whether you are visiting the office in person or meeting virtually through a telehealth appointment.
What is Self-Advocacy?
Simply put, self-advocacy is standing up for yourself. It means representing yourself and your symptoms to medical staff. It also means opening up a conversation with your physician about your acute or chronic pain, instead of being directed by them to determine your treatment route.
It doesn’t mean being pushy, but it does involve setting the agenda in order for your doctor to properly address all the issues pertinent to you. Doctors appreciate self-advocacy and understanding your symptoms so they do not have to waste time and effort trying to pinpoint your issues, and instead focus on finding the right treatment to help with your pain.
Why Does Self-Advocacy Matter?
Being your own advocate can be scary, and it can be especially tough when you’re talking to a doctor. After all, a doctor has spent years mastering a specific field of study – surely they know more about it than you do, you might think.
However, keep in mind that you are also an expert in your own personal situation. You know your body, your symptoms, experiences, and medical history better than anyone else. Your doctor likely doesn’t feel the same pain you are feeling, so it is important to communicate clearly and honestly with them. Remember that you and the doctor have the same goal – to help you take charge of your pain and feel better every day. That is why self-advocacy matters.
Tips to Be a Better Self-Advocate During a Doctor’s Appointment
Find doctors who believe in collaboration
Find a doctor you can trust and you can collaborate with. Your relationship with your doctor should be open, honest, and trusting. They should listen to your concerns and answer your questions so you feel comfortable. At the same time, the doctor should be sure that you understand and feel comfortable with prescribed treatments.
Establishing a relationship with a doctor can help you build trust over time and feel more confident in and satisfied with the care you’re receiving. One way to do so is for you to clearly communicate and give honest information about your health. Keep a notebook where you can record your symptoms, current prescriptions, past medical records, medical history, drug allergies, and medicines you take to help you practice self-advocacy during your next appointment.
Arm yourself with information
According to the non-profit organization Medical Herstory, “There is no more powerful advocate than a patient armed with information and options.”
To be a better self-advocate, you have to educate yourself before going to your doctor’s appointment. While you may not always feel well enough to do your own research, it can pay off in the long run, especially when you have a chronic pain condition.
By gaining health literacy, even a basic understanding of pain medicine – including key concepts, alternative treatments, and emerging research – you can speak with your doctor more effectively. By taking a more active role in your pain management, you may be able to convince your doctor that you are committed to getting better. If you are not sure where to find resources, you can subscribe to our newsletter and download your free copy of our ebook “Beyond Pain” to guide you through pain management, self-care tips, and alternative treatments to help you live a life beyond pain.
You should always feel comfortable asking your doctor questions. If you don’t understand your diagnosis, treatment options, or anything the doctor suggests, ask them to explain in a clear, simple way until you feel comfortable.Write down your own questions ahead of time. This is important so you don’t forget to ask anything important to you, and in the event, you were scheduled for an acute visit, which may be brief. Review this sample guide on questions you can ask your doctor during your in-person or virtual appointment.
Get a second opinion
If you’ve expressed yourself confidently and clearly but you still feel like you are not being heard by the doctor, you may want to consider finding a new physician, or at least a second opinion. Staying informed and having options are key to being a better advocate for yourself and your health.
Get used to telehealth appointments
As telehealth becomes more popular for doctor visits (including second opinions), make sure you can successfully navigate the world of virtual health. All you need is a smartphone or a device with an internet connection and audio-video capabilities, like a tablet or computer. Here are tips on how you can prepare for your telehealth consultation.
If you are in pain and want to speak to a doctor who can help you with your pain management plan, you can consider BioWave’s TeleMed service. Talk to a provider today from the comfort of your own home and learn how an electrotherapy device like BioWaveGO® RX can complement your pain management treatment. BioWaveGO RX is the 100% drug-free, wearable FDA cleared smarter pain-blocking device that delivers better patient outcomes.
Lean on your support system
Another important aspect of self-advocacy is surrounding yourself with people who can speak for you when you can’t. Reach out to friends or loved ones to be with you during your in-person or telehealth appointments. Having them by your side may also give you even more confidence to advocate for yourself.
You Are Your Own Best Health Advocate
Keep in mind you are your own best health advocate and have the power to take charge of your pain. Advocating for yourself can be a difficult thing to do, especially when speaking to a doctor, but remember you deserve to be heard and you have the power to live a life beyond pain.