You have not seen your neuro for 6 months. In that time, you have had many moments where you said to yourself, “I should ask my doc about this weird twitch/possible side effect/thoughts on switching to new drugs when they become available” or any other number of things that would be a topic to discuss with the person who works with you to figure out medical mysteries and writes your prescriptions. The day of your appointment rolls around and your doctor walks in the door, smiling and asking how you are. You are staring at the folder in his hands, which contains the results of your routine MRI. That is all you can focus on, so you say, “fine,” searching his face for clues as to whether you actually are fine or not. Even after he reassures you that the scans look good and specifically asks you about symptoms or medication concerns, you simply cannot remember much of anything besides the fact that your feet still tingle and your injection was uncomfortable last night. You leave the appointment feeling slightly relieved by your MRI results, but frustrated because you know that there were many questions that you did not ask.
Any of that sound familiar?
A weird phenomenon happens when many of us go to see our doctors – we seem to have the idea that they are going to take over and figure everything out for us, based on a scan and the snapshot of our symptoms that they see during the short time that we are in their exam room. This happens to the same people that look up menus online before deciding which restaurant to go to for dinner or read (and compare) book reviews before checking anything out of the library. Regardless of why we may have gone to our neurologist unprepared in the past, it is important that we get more strategic about our health and help our docs help us.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment
Treat your doctor’s appointments like important business meetings – prepare for them. You probably would have a list of questions ready before going to see any other professionals (an accountant, a lawyer, a realtor), and it just makes sense to get your thoughts and questions organized before seeing your doctor. Don’t think that you are overstepping your boundaries – it is respectful to come prepared to an appointment. Make a pledge to yourself to do this before every doctor’s appointment. Here are some suggestions for getting prepared
Step 1: Update your doctor. Write out a few bullet points that summarize how you feel and what is happening. (See How to Talk to Your Doctor About Pain (or Anything Else) to make sure that you include relevant information about how your MS symptoms are affecting you.) Be short and to the point, but don’t leave out anything that might be important. Be sure to include any lifestyle adjustments you are making, including changes in diet, exercise and supplements. Also let your doctor know about any alternative providers you are seeing, such as acupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists.