Being able to properly describe your pain is just as important as taking the initiative to make an appointment with a pain management specialist. If you’re unable to communicate the type of pain and location where it occurs to the physician, then chances are the doctor will not be able to make the correct diagnosis. The physician must be able to understand the level of pain you are experiencing to be able to order diagnostic tests and develop a comprehensive treatment plan to manage your pain.
The LOCATES memory aid was developed to help patients remember the types of answers physicians are looking for when they ask you to describe your pain. Before you see your health care provider, please review and write down your personal experience to each letter.
L: Location of the pain and where the pain travels to other body parts
O: Other symptoms associated with the pain, such as numbness or weakness
C: Character of the pain; is it throbbing, burning, sharp, dull, or shooting
A: Aggravating and alleviating factors; what makes the pain better or worse?
T: Timing of the pain; is it constant or does it come in intervals?
E: Environment where the pain occurs; at work, home, sitting, or standing?
S: Severity of the pain, using a 0-10 interval with 0 being no pain and 10 being debilitating pain
In addition to asking you questions about your pain, your health care provider will conduct a physical examination and review your medical history.
One final note: it is important to be honest about your pain. Do not feel the need to minimize your pain for fear of being negative or a burden. Also, do not exaggerate your pain level because you’re afraid your physician won’t believe you. Pain management specialists are trained to treat chronic pain conditions. The more specific and honest you are about your pain experiences, the more successful your physician will be at managing your pain.
Please visit www.painaction.com for more information about describing your pain.