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Preparing for your Doctor’s Appointment

Many of us who have a Doctor’s appointment tend to forget or don’t know what questions to ask or what to say.  It is a good idea to prepare in advance and write down any questions you need to ask, a list of symptoms, a list of prescribed and non prescribed medications taken and if you have any allergies.  This will help you remember what you need to ask and help the doctor in making a diagnosis and what the possible triggers are.

It may also help to bring along a family member or friend for support.

What the Doctor may need to know about your symptoms:

•   Where the pain is?
•   How long it lasts?
•   What type of pain it is? *
•   Is the pain in one area or does it spread?
•   Is the pain constant or comes and goes?
•   If the pain is worse at a particular time of day?
•   Are there any activities that may aggravate the pain?
•   What is the level of pain, mild, moderate or severe?
•   If the pain disturbs your sleep
•   If the pain affects your ability in daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, going up and down stairs, housework, shopping, opening jars, lifting, bending, carrying etc.
•   If your concentration is affected
•   If you have any other symptoms that may be associated, chest pain, constipation or diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, forgetfulness, headache, limb or muscle weakness, nausea, numbness, shortness of breath or sweating.

*Types of Pain:  Aching, Burning, Cramping, Dull, Gnawing, Heavy, Numb, Pinching, Sharp, Shooting,
Stabbing, Tender, Throbbing.

What the Doctor may do:

•   Give you a physical examination**
•   Take blood tests
•   Prescribe medications
•   Request X-rays
•   Referral to a hospital department for treatment
•   Referral to a specialist for further investigation
•   Make a prognosis or diagnosis
•   Ask you to come back for a follow-up appointment

**A physical examination may involve examination of the spine, neck, arm and leg joints/muscles and you
may be asked to do particular movements as well as push and pull of the limbs.  Sometimes a GP may or may not ask you to undress.

What to ask the Doctor:

•   What is the condition?
•   How is this condition managed or treated?
•   Will it be long term, permanent?
•   Is there more than one condition causing my symptoms?
•   Why am I being prescribed medication, and what is it for?
•   Are there any side effects?
•   Have you any leaflets or information on this condition?
•   Ask the Doctor to explain anything you don’t understand?
•   Do I need a follow-up appointment, if so when?
•   What do I do if my symptoms get worse?

What to ask if referred to a Specialist /Treatment or sent for further Tests/Bloods

•   Why am I being referred and to whom?
•   How long is the waiting list?
•   Why am I having blood tests?
•   What are these further tests?
•   How long before I get my test results?

The above questions apply to most problems or symptoms.  It would help the doctor if you had a ‘pain sheet’ or diary of your symptoms as this will give you more time to discuss your concerns.

At the end of your visit express any concerns or worries you may have, it may also be helpful to take a notepad with you to write down what advice or instructions the doctor has given you.

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