It can be hard to feel like your concerns about your pain aren’t being heard. Learn strategies for speaking up for yourself and getting the care you deserve.
Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person’s story. The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Healthline Media.
Growing up, I experienced terrible, debilitating hip pain. It occurred mostly during stretching when I was doing ballet but was so bad it would make me collapse in tears. It concerned me greatly, and my parents too, but every time I went to the doctor, we were always told it was growing pains and nothing else was done about it. After all, I was a young, healthy ballet dancer. It certainly couldn’t be anything insidious.
Fast forward 30 years, and I’ve been dealing with the same pain my entire life. It has finally been diagnosed as sacroiliitis, or inflammation of the sacroiliac (SI) joint, and I have had to have my SI joint fused to treat it.
More recently, I went to the emergency room with a spinal headache, and my doctor wanted to deny me treatment stating that “you don’t look like you are in that much pain. Most people with a headache like that would be lying in a dark room.” Meanwhile, the only reason I wasn’t lying in a dark room was because I was unable to while in a waiting room.
Living with chronic pain brings many challenges, but none are quite as frustrating as having your pain dismissed by healthcare professionals.
Having my pain dismissed has forced me to learn self-advocacy, pushing back when I feel my pain or other complaints are being ignored or dismissed by doctors.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone in this experience. If you’re living with chronic pain, chances are that you have — or will at some point — run into the same issue. Here are five ways to advocate for yourself when you feel your pain is being dismissed.
Take inventory of your symptoms and write them down. Be ready to talk specifics about when you feel your pain, how your pain acts, and what your pain feels like.
Doctors are more likely to take you seriously when you have documented proof of what and how often you are experiencing something. If it’s something you can take a picture or a video of, do that. If it’s something you can monitor the frequency of, make a chart. Anything like this that you can bring to your doctor will help them help you.
If you want to know why your concern doesn’t seem to be a priority, ask. Your doctor may be focused on another symptom you brought up that you might not realize could be a red flag for them.
Making sure you and your doctor are on the same page about what’s most concerning to each of you can help you better communicate and reach treatment planning goals that make you both happy.
“Conflict” is not a bad word. But keep it kind and professional.
If you don’t agree with your doctor’s approach, explain your concerns. If you are willing to try something but are concerned it won’t work, come to an understanding that you will try it for so many weeks before you need to come back together to reevaluate how well it’s working.
If a treatment or medication isn’t helping, be honest with the doctor. They don’t know unless you tell them.
Research your diagnoses and common comorbid conditions. Join support groups like Bezzy, where you can bring your concerns to the group to see if anyone else has ever experienced anything similar.
It’s OK to look up your symptoms online, but beware: Without a medical degree, you must take what you find with a grain of salt. But it never hurts to bring your research to your doctor and ask them to go through it with you to help you work together to find the best course of treatment.
It’s your body and your treatment plan. If you feel your pain is being dismissed, you deserve to go to a doctor that will listen to you and address your concerns thoroughly.
If you are bringing your concern to your primary care doctor, ask for a referral to a specialist, even if they may have doubts. If it’s a specialist who is giving you a hard time, get in touch with your primary care doctor and explain that you’re having a hard time getting on the same page with your current specialist.
Maybe they can help clarify some things with the specialist, or maybe they will happily write you a new referral. Either way, it never hurts to get another opinion.
Remember, you know your body better than anyone else. Trust yourself and trust what you feel.
Try not to get angry with the doctors who don’t seem to be hearing your concerns. Just use your resources to advocate for yourself and to get the treatment you need and deserve.
Medically reviewed on March 30, 2023
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