Meeting new people is one of the most common causes of anxiety. Therefore, even when coming to a new doctor, it can be very difficult to meet someone new – to open up and tell your story. You may worry about if you are going to feel comfortable talking with them and feel comfortable with their recommendations. Maybe you’re going to a new health care provider because you’ve finally decided you want to talk about a new spine or mobility issues, or maybe your insurance has changed, you moved, your previous physician retired, or you decided you didn’t like your previous physician, or any other multitude of reasons.
I know that as a patient when you are referred you may have already thought about what you want from your provider. Most of the time it’s just “fix it!” But let’s be real, maybe you’ve heard something from a friend, or read something on the internet, or have even found something that you think “works best for you.” However, this can be tricky because it may not be the best treatment for you. My advice is to try to go into the new appointment with an open mind. Simply tell your story of how you arrived at this point. What you have been dealing with, when did it begin, what has helped, what made it worse, prior physicians involved in your care, and any lab or diagnostic studies that may have been performed. When you visit a new physician you should go into it with the expectation that you are getting a new set of eyes to see you and give their best judgement.
Very few of us would take our car to the mechanic and tell them how to fix it because we know very little about it and instead must trust their expertise. It’s the same when you go to a board-certified physician. If their treatment plan is different from your expectations, it may be disappointing or even a little scary to change, but this is their area of expertise and they want what is best for you.
In my practice, when discussing new treatment plans, and especially weaning off opioids or “pain pills,” I will take the time to talk with you in a non-judgemental and empathetic way. Truly, I do understand that change is scary and it’s hard to trust a new doctor, but there are other options with fewer long term side effects. Opioids can cause constipation, itching, difficulty with urination, in men elevated estrogen levels, and issues with self esteem tied with the stigma of these medications. Inherently, I think that we all realize that these medications are less than ideal and that’s why we feel all feel concerned about how others will perceive us when we are on these medications which makes it difficult to talk about.
My goal is to help build trust over time so that we can work as a team to discuss your pain, your medications, and how you feel about the treatment plan. I’ve heard patients in the past who are afraid that their “pain will just explode” without opioids which is why I don’t believe the answer is to cut these medications cold turkey but instead begin a plan to taper opioids and replace them with alternative therapies. This is also where counseling comes in and open communication and trust helps tremendously with this process.
I have found that when you let more people into your life, your life becomes richer and fuller. If you’re open, you too can let more people into your life and create your own personal team with your health care providers alongside your family and friends to create a social support network to help achieve your goals of daily living. And that’s how you discover more WOW moments.
-Dr. Mike Martinez #DOFW