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, it's a good idea to arrive well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

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.
  • List any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • List 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 and 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, he or she can write down information from your doctor or other clinic staff during the appointment.
  • List questions to ask your doctor.

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

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor will likely ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • 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?
Sept. 17, 2015