Do you and your specialist disagree on the severity of your Migraine Disease?

A recent study was published that illustrated the discord between patients and physicians. The research was done in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but I post it to you here today because it brings to mind some of the problems I’ve seen voiced by Migraineurs.

In the study 36% of the cases observed had a “clinically meaningful difference” between patients and their physician’s assessments of their disease. That’s over 1/3rd of physicians that scored their patients disease lower than the patient scored it. The study suggested that the researchers felt that patient language or mood may be posing “barriers to communication” that may have caused the disparity. If you go and read the study, you’ll find some fairly fancy language that might be confusing — don’t let it. The researchers were not blaming doctors for how well they listened to their patients, but how well the patients communicated with them.

What are your appointments like? Are you able to tell your doctor everything you went there to say, or are you interrupted before you get the chance?

I have been to about every kind of doctor imaginable. I have been blessed by doctors who sit and listen and intently ask questions, then repeat back to you what they understand you said. One wrote his notes in front of me, read them to me and gave me the chance to make any corrections before he walked out of the room. I’ve also been plagued by some doctors who won’t let me finish my first sentence before interrupting me with a question or a statement that hijacks the visit.

I’ve written about my suggestions for a fruitful doctor’s office visit here (see 6 Tips for Optimal Results at Your Doctor’s Visit) and I do practice what I preach. That said, I am nearly giddy when I leave an office appointment feeling like I accomplished what I came there to do. When my doctor doesn’t understand the impact my Migraine Disease is having on my life, is the problem mine, or his?

Some tips for making sure you are being heard and understood by your doctor:

  • Follow this link and run your office visits like a timed business meeting. You only have a few moments, so make them count.
  • Be sure to use language that speaks of facts. Some examples: I used to go to work and never take a sick day, and now I am unable to work. I no longer can do normal day-to-day chores. I spend 20 hours of each day in bed.
  • Rate your pain on a scale of 1-10. 1 is no pain, 10 is the worst pain you can imagine. Do not ever overrate your pain above the 10 scale. Your doctor will not take you seriously because they have seen things so terrible we can only imagine. Overrating your pain also hurts your doctor’s other patients because he becomes de-sensitized to patients who truthfully use the scale. If the pain is beyond anything you could have imagined before, then rate it 10 and tell him that.
  • Rate your disability on a scale of 1-10. If 1 is no disability, and 10 is living in a full care nursing facility, where are you? Speak facts.
  • Rate your family life on a scale. If 1 is bliss, and 10 is you living alone because everyone has left you, where do you fall now? Speak facts.
  • If all else fails, ask your doctor to rate your disability, then use that rating to generate a conversation in which you are able to set the record straight.

It is our responsibility as patients to be sure that our doctors understand the impact our disease has on our lives. If they don’t understand, how can they help us? If yours won’t understand you, it might be time for a new doctor.

The good news about the study was that doctors and patients were in agreement that something needs to be done about the disconnect in assessing RA.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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