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How to talk about pain

Talking about pain is difficult and often awkward. You may have fear or embarrassment about your pain but know that you should never feel ashamed to discuss it, especially with your healthcare team. 

Video appointment with journal

Pain is much easier to address when we can see or feel that something is wrong, but what about when the pain is invisible to others? Pain can be difficult to talk about not only because it can be hard to describe, but also because it impacts so much of your life. 

Setting Expectations

It may be difficult to make your pain go away completely. What would be an okay amount of pain for you? Is there a goal or activity you would like to be able to do if your pain was better controlled? For example, someone might want to feel good enough to go ice skating or maybe sleep through the night. Talk about this with your healthcare team, because it can help set realistic goals and expectations.

Describing Your Pain

It may be helpful to start a journal about your pain to help your healthcare team better understand what you are going through. Here are some questions to help you and your healthcare team better understand your pain:

  • What does your pain feel like? 
  • Is it sharp or dull? writing - large notepad
  • Does it throb or ache? 
  • Does it feel hot or cold?
  • Does it feel like pins and needles?
  • Does anything help your pain? Does anything make the pain worse?
  • Is your pain worse at different times during the day?
  • Does your pain wake you up at night?
  • Does your pain make it hard to move around?
  • Does your pain often feel too overwhelming to get out of bed?
  • Does temperature or the weather affect your pain?


What other qualities and characteristics best describe your pain? You might notice it becomes easier to talk about your pain if you know a little bit more about it. This is why it might be beneficial for you to start writing down the details of your pain. Remember your pain is unique, so let your health care team know a little bit more about it. 

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