When Doctors Ask Chronic Pain Patients, 'Are You in Pain Today?'

I’m sorry, but every time I am asked that question I have one of two answers.

1. Where?

2. That is without a doubt a terrible question to ask an older patient who has had chronic pain and multiple health issues. Other than to “CYA” (cover your butts), why would you ask such a ridiculous question?


If I sound picky, I’m not – just frustrated. I retired from a surgeon’s office and I still think that is a ridiculous question for patients who have multiple issues. Too many times I have had patients ask, “Do I have to pick just one?”

It’s an easy question for some people, but not for too many of us. After 21 surgeries and too many procedures to count, am I answering about my arthritis, osteoarthritis, stress fracture on my foot, failed knee surgery on my right, the hip I almost lost to a severe reaction to Demerol, my shoulder surgery that failed, numerous car accidents (I drive 60-100 miles one way to work), etc.? (You get the picture.)

Am I in pain? Yes, constantly! Is it always in the same place? No, it depends on what I have been doing, what I have been trying to do and what I need to get done during the day.

Does being in pain affect me? No, I just have depression and some anger issues with not being able to be the “fun” grandma and missing too many things with my husband and my kids. I’m not able to sleep at night and I’m not able to go to events and sit for an extended period of time or spend time outdoors doing fun activities without spending days not being able to move.

Have I had therapy? I know the majority of the therapists where I go, who they’re married to, how their kids are and what they did on vacation. So if you want to know about the therapy, you’re going to need a notebook with lots of pages!

I apologize to all the nurses and aides that have to ask me that question. I know it is not your fault! I do wish the medical field would get more realistic with the question about pain. I know they are trying to fight the opioid war but I feel right now the senior population and the younger generation who have legitimate pain are being left in the dust.

I also get tired of the eye rolls from the doctors who don’t specialize in ortho and send us to a doctor who is an ortho specialist. Because I am not young and this didn’t happen during a sport, many just aren’t that enthusiastic to help me or a lot of us who are “retired.”

So please, the next time I have to go in and you want to know if I am in pain, hand me a coloring book of the body and I’ll color code my areas and levels. Maybe that would help! I am retired and still in pain.

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Thinkstock photo via TongRo Images Inc.

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