Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're experiencing aches, pains or stiffness in joints or muscles, you'll probably see your primary care doctor first. You may then be referred to a specialist in inflammatory disorders of muscles and the skeletal system (rheumatologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes. It's also helpful to bring the name and contact information of any doctor you have seen recently or see regularly.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking, along with the dosage for each.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you, if possible. In addition to offering support, this person can write down information from your doctor or other clinic staff during the appointment.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. For polymyalgia rheumatica, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is this condition temporary or long-lasting?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions. Be prepared to answer the following:

  • Where is the pain or stiffness located?
  • When did the symptoms begin?
  • How would you rate your current level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Are symptoms worse at certain times of day or night?
  • How long does stiffness last after you wake in the morning or after a long period of inactivity?
  • Does the pain or stiffness limit your activities? Are you avoiding any activities because of the symptoms?
  • Have you experienced similar episodes of pain or stiffness in the past? Was the condition diagnosed and treated?
  • Have you experienced any new or severe headaches?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your vision?
  • Have you experienced any jaw pain?
July 20, 2012