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A woman holding her abdomen in pain while a doctor comforts her.

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

Describing your pain accurately and thoroughly may help your health care provider find the cause of the pain and treat it.

Information that is helpful to your doctor includes:1

  • 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 include:2

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

Citations

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  1. International Pelvic Pain Society. (2008). Pelvic pain assessment form. Retrieved May 26, 2016, 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]

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