How to explain symptoms to a Doctor (PAIN)

The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and the cause and prevention of disease. Thomas A. Edison

Do you remember the last time you went to the doctor and the conversation was like this:

Doctor: Hello how can I help you?
You: I have back pain

Doctor: Can you describe it?
You: It is big pain at my back.

Then you couldn’t continue. You run short of words until the doctor guides you with a lot of questions.

In medicine the better you describe your symptoms the better for you. Symptoms are subjective. They indicate the presence of bodily disorder. 

And they help the doctor get a better diagnosis and give you the best treatment. Patients that describe well their symptoms get the best out of their doctors.

I will teach you how to explain your symptom excellently to a doctor. In this case we will use pain. With this information you will wow any doctor. Especially if you are not reading it from a piece of paper or phone. 

The first wealth is health. Ralph Waldo Emerson

SOCRATES is a word formed from the initial components of a longer phrase. It is used by health professionals to evaluate the nature of patient’s pain. Below is full meaning:

Site – Where exactly is the pain? What body part/parts are involved?.

Onset – When did the pain start, and was it sudden, rapid, gradual etc? Does it come and go?

Character – What is the pain like? The pain may be of a stabbing, cutting, stinging, burning, gripping, crushing, throbbing, etc.

Radiation – Does the pain radiate or move to anywhere?

Associations – Does anything else happen while you have the pain? Any feeling of illness or physical or mental change that comes with the pain. 

Time course – Does the pain follow any pattern? Is it constant or does it happen at specific time of the day? 

Exacerbating/relieving factors – Does anything change the pain? What makes it better or worse?

Severity – How bad is the pain from 0 to 10? In this case 0 is the lowest and 10 is the most severe pain experienced.

For example you can describe you back pain like this:

I have a gradual but intense back pain for the past one month. It aches especially when I am walking and moves to the left leg. When I have the pain I cannot move well and I have a tingling sensation on my left foot. It increases in the morning and gets better during the day. Each time I take Paracetamol it gets better. It is a 7 out of 10 back pain.

As you see, you do not have to follow the pattern exactly. You will notice that most doctors ask questions using the mnemonic. So you can use the same to make your life easier. It can be used for any kind of pain.

Never forget SOCRATES. The name will make your life easier. 

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