Pacific Family Practice Blog

How to Describe Symptoms to Your Doctor

Posted on March 26th, 2019 by Pacific Family Practice in Primary Care, Women's Health

How to Describe Symptoms to Your Doctor

For many, doctors’ appointments can be nerve-wracking, even if you’re not suffering from any serious health issues. The formality involved, the sense that your doctor may be pressed for time, and, of course, the discomfort that many feel discussing health concerns can make for a stressful visit.

However, this doesn’t need to be the case — whether going to a routine checkup or going in with a specific concern.

If you’ve ever struggled to express your health concerns or describe symptoms to your doctor, here are four key points to keep in mind that will help ensure you get the most out of your next appointment.

1. Describe symptoms and health concerns in your own words.
Being in any kind of medical facility can be intimidating, but doctors don’t expect you to speak in industry jargon or be familiar with complex medical terminologies.

When describing your symptoms or expressing your concerns, speak in your own words and describe any symptoms using the adjectives that make the most sense to you. If you have a dull, throbbing, persistent headache, you can describe it that way — no need to try to use complex medical terms.

2. Explain how your symptoms affect your daily life.
To provide your doctor with a full picture of any health problems you’re experiencing, try to describe how symptoms affect your day-to-day life. Do you often miss work or personal engagements due to pain? Are you losing sleep or experiencing heightened anxiety? Is it painful when you move in certain ways?

Try to be as specific as possible so that the doctor can get a clear idea of what you’re experiencing and how serious it may be based on how it affects your daily life.

3. Don’t try to “play tough.”
Some patients, men and women alike, may be uncomfortable expressing distress or describing pain, even to a medical professional. They may think that this makes them weak or they may believe that it’s just “in their head.”

This can be detrimental, however; minimizing symptoms makes it harder for the doctor to fully assess what you’re dealing with, and finding relief may be a much longer, harder process. This can even affect how test results are interpreted.

Whether you’re describing period pain at your annual well woman exam or at an urgent care practice trying to explain out-of-the-ordinary pain you’re experiencing, be truthful with your doctor and don’t worry about being tough; your health is your main priority here.

4. Prepare for the doctor’s appointment ahead of time.
It happens all the time: You have health questions that you take mental note of when they come up, but by the time you’re in the doctor’s office, you can’t remember any of them. It’s crucial to write down any questions and concerns ahead of time. Keep an ongoing list in your smartphone or on a notepad, and be sure to have it handy when you go to your next appointment.

You may also wish to write down ahead of time some of the adjectives that you will use to describe any symptoms or issues you’re experiencing. This will allow for a smoother, more efficient visit, especially for people who tend to “blank” when actually at an appointment. Additionally, we kindly ask that you keep in mind that multiple health concerns may require multiple visits.

Finally, be sure to consider any questions that may come up based on what you anticipate will happen during the doctor’s appointment.

Make the Most of Your Next Doctor’s Appointment
Doctors’ appointments don’t need to stressful, scary, or uncomfortable. Do a little preparation ahead of time, describe symptoms in your own words, and keep in mind that both you and the doctor have the same goal: to make sure you’re feeling your best.

Whether you’ve been experiencing pain or unusual symptoms that you’ve been meaning to get checked out or it’s just been a while since your last annual physical, get your health back on track today with the team at Pacific Family Practice. We offer a range of specialized services to fit your exact needs — primary care, women’s health, urgent care, and pediatric care.

Contact us or set up an appointment today.

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