Notes from the pain management workshop, week 6 ~THE FINAL~

I was kind of thinking about skipping this last week because the previous few sessions were feeling not very useful for me, but I ended up going anyway and I’m glad that I did.

Also, I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but if you’re in Seattle, these workshops are available to you whether you’re a Kaiser Permanente member or not! There’s more information about that on their living well classes, including online versions (and they also have additional online resources).

Main topics today:

  • Working with healthcare providers
  • Weight management (ugh, but don’t worry)
  • Looking forward

Working with healthcare providers

Common problems at an organizational level:

  • Mixed messages between providers (and lack of communication between them)
  • Finding the right provider
  • Getting no response from your provider
  • Long waits to get an appointment
  • Loss of provider (retirement/moving to another practice/etc.)

Some fixes for the above:

  • Be proactive about scheduling; make an appointment as soon as you think it might become necessary, and cancel it later if you don’t need it
  • Proactively ask the office about cancelations, ask to be put on a cancelation priority list
  • Shop around for other providers

And common problems with individual providers:

  • Not being taken seriously
  • Rushed appointment
  • Not understanding the problem
  • Lack of listening
  • Focus on symptoms rather than problems
  • Inexperience
  • Lack of availability
  • Difficulty with communicating with the patient
    • Understanding the problems described
    • Using too much jargon or technical terminology
  • Focusing on the wrong issues (weight, “trans broken arm syndrome,” etc.)
  • Dismissiveness (“You’re too young to be feeling this sort of pain”/“It’s normal to feel pain as we age”)
  • Over-automation
  • Cost

And some strategies for some of the above:

  • Establish your priorities in treatment
  • If you have multiple doctors, designate one to be the Final Say in what your treatment plan should be based on your priorities
  • Keep in contact via email if possible
  • Choose coordinated/integrated care facilities
  • Bring an advocate or second pair of ears with you
  • Read the post-visit summary before leaving, and ask the doctor for clarification on anything non-obvious
  • Also during the appointment, repeat back everything they say in your own words to make sure you’re understanding it
  • Do whatever followup they call for

Ways to communicate with doctors about pain:

  1. Prepare a pain profile; list out all the things that cause pain, what the pain does to you, what you hope to get out of treating it, and so on
  2. Describe your pain with words; the McGill Pain Questionnaire has some good terminology
  3. Identify your intensity levels on a scale from 1-10 (at this point I of course brought up the Mankoski Pain Scale)
  4. Describe how it affects your ability to function and live and enjoy life and so on

Weight management

I wasn’t looking forward to this section but it was basically a brief recap of the previous module on healthy eating, with “If you need to lose weight, eat less, exercise more. If you need to gain weight, eat more, and keep exercising.” They kept it nice and brief.

Looking back, looking forward

Summary of what we learned:

  • Mindfulness
  • Action planning
  • Pain management toolbox
  • Problem solving
  • Some pretty good stretches and exercises
  • Communication skills
  • Working with medication (not against it), and how medication is a tool that helps and there’s no shame in relying on it as part of a comprehensive pain management strategy
  • Pacing and planning
  • Sleep management
  • Breaking the symptom cycle
  • Breathing techniques

My goals going forward:

  • Pace myself
  • Find a lifestyle that works for me
  • Find a job that is compatible with the above

What I’ve accomplished over the past six weeks: I got better at recognizing my pain and taking care of it before it gets unmanageable.

The end

We all talked about how much we liked meeting each other and working with each other, and appreciated the stuff we all learned. Then we had a final guided meditation session, and exchanged emails and said our goodbyes. We talked about having a reunion in a couple months.

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