Fitness + Well-being

6 Mistakes You Make at the Doctor's Office

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It's not uncommon for chronic pain patients to report a difficult encounter with a doctor.

"One of the things that patients cry out the most for is having someone actually listen to them and understand them," says Micke Brown, director of advocacy at the American Pain Foundation.

Andrea Cooper, 52, a fibromyalgia patient and patient advocate in Phoenix, Md., agrees, but also notes that a patient's actions can sometimes make a doctor's job harder. Here's how to avoid the top six pain patient no-no's:

Arriving unprepared

Cooper recommends writing down questions in order of priority, keeping a pain diary, and having medication refill needs on hand.

Failing to keep track of long-term treatment

Patients should keep their own medical file at home with copies of lab reports and doctors' notes. These should be updated and reviewed regularly.

Not being candid

Patients are sometimes afraid to disappoint a doctor if they have made little or no progress. They are embarrassed about certain symptoms or about their failure to take medication as directed. They need to be forthcoming.

Not being an active participant

Patients should think of themselves as being a part of the solution. They'll benefit from educating themselves on the ins-and-outs of their condition and treatment options, and by finding support in others who are fighting the same battles. "Doctors respect patients who take ownership of their own care, who show that they are actively engaged," says Cooper.

Burning their bridges

Leaving a doctor's practice in anger or haste can cause ill will and prevent cooperation in the future for medical care with another provider.

Seeing the wrong doctor

Even if pain patients do need to participate more actively in their care, Penney Cowan, executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association, says a big piece of the puzzle is still missing: physician education.

"Most physicians have received minimal training in pain management," Cowan says. "It's not part of the curriculum."

Cowan points unhappy patients to the American Board of Pain Medicine, where they can find a physician trained in pain management.

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