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How can I describe my pain to my health care provider?

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The better you can describe your pain, the easier it may be for your doctor to find the cause of the pain and treat your pain. Information that is helpful to your doctor includes1:

  • How long you have had your pain
  • Where you feel the pain
  • Whether your pain is in one spot or spread out
  • How the pain feels and how severe it is
  • Whether pain is constant or comes and goes
  • What activities make pain worse or improve it
  • How your pain limits what you can do
  • How often the pain occurs and how long it lasts
  • Anything that triggers the pain

Keeping a pain diary or record of your pain is a good way to track your pain triggers as well as symptoms over time. Be as specific as possible. Some words that can help you describe the way your pain feels include2:

  • Aching
  • Cramping
  • Fearful
  • Gnawing
  • Heavy
  • Hot or burning
  • Sharp
  • Shooting
  • Sickening
  • Splitting
  • Stabbing
  • Punishing or cruel
  • Tender
  • Throbbing
  • Tiring or exhausting

  1. International Pelvic Pain Society. (1999). Pelvic pain assessment form. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from http://www.pelvicpain.org/docs/resources/forms/History-and-Physical-Form-English.aspx External Web Site Policy (PDF - 218 KB) [top]
  2. Melzack, R. (1987). The short-form McGill pain questionnaire. Pain, 30, 191–197. [top]

Last Updated Date: 04/11/2014
Last Reviewed Date: 04/12/2013
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