1. Do educate yourself.A good doctor will usually respect and appreciate a patient who cares enough about herself to learn about her illness. FM and CFS have only recently begun to be recognized and accepted by many physicians. So, although your doctor may acknowledge what you have, he may not know a great deal about it. I have personally found that doctors are more willing to learn and to work with you on finding an effective treatment plan if they see that you are knowledgeable about your condition. You dont have to become an expert; just know the basics. For a general overview of FM or CFS, see:
2. Do prepare for your appointment.Dont count on your memory or depend on the doctor to ask you all the right questions. Write everything down and take it to your appointment. At the very least, you should take:
- Medication List List all medications you are currently taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, supplements and herbal remedies. Dont forget inhalers or any medicinal creams or gels you might be using. Your list should include the name of the medication, the strength of the medication (e.g., 50 milligrams) and the dosing instructions. (Some doctors prefer that you bring original containers of all medications.)
- Current Symptoms Make a list of all symptoms you currently experience on a regular basis. Describe the symptom as clearly as possible and note when the symptom began and how frequently it occurs. When listing pain as a symptom, try to describe the type of pain (i.e., stabbing, throbbing, sharp, aching), the location of the pain, how long it lasts, and its severity (using a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine).
- Questions - Write down all of the questions you want to ask the doctor. Doctor visits can be stressful and theres a good chance you will forget something if its not written down.
If this is your first visit to a new doctor, see Before You Visit a New Doctor for additional information you need to bring to that first visit.
3. Dont whimper or whine.When were sick and in pain, sometimes our voices take on a whimpering, whining quality. No one likes to listen to whining. If you have children, you know that youre more apt to ignore the pleas of a whining child than one who makes his requests in a normal conversational tone. Even though we may not realize it, we tend to give less credibility to someone who whines be it child or adult. You may not even be aware that you sound whiney at times. If you have any doubts, ask a family member who will be honest with you. When you talk with your doctor, you want your voice to sound calm and rational.
4. Dont go in with a chip on your shoulder.If you feel youve been mistreated by doctors in the past, it may be difficult to enter a doctors office without an adversarial attitude. But a Youd better help me or else approach will only serve to put your doctor on the defensive and label you as a troublemaker. It does nothing to lay the groundwork for a good doctor-patient working relationship. Yes, you have the right to be listened to and treated with respect. But you cant demand respect, and if a doctor does not want to listen to you, you cant force him to. The best thing you can do is try to communicate calmly and clearly with your doctor.