Updated: Sep 1, 2020
You're young, and doctors will be quick to write you off. But your pain is real and you're allowed to speak up for yourself. You're allowed to challenge the answers you're given (or lack thereof). It's imperative to understand how to advocate for yourself at the doctor.
Having health problems when you're young is a real pain in the ass. Especially if your health problems involve joint pain. Try being 25 and telling your doctor you have severe hip pain and no injuries to speak of. If your experience is like mine, you're likely to be met with a lot of raised eye brows and doubt.
The first doctor I brought my chronic hip pain to, had the chance to change the trajectory of the next 5 years of my life. Instead, she wrote me off.
"I see some narrowing in your joint. But you're really too young for arthritis."
She took some blood work, determined I "might" have rheumatoid arthritis and sent me off to a rheumatologist, who disagreed with her diagnosis. My numbers weren't borderline enough. He told me I was young and otherwise healthy, and the pain would likely go away on its own.
If I was then who I am now, I would've demanded they dig deeper. I would've insisted on further testing. Instead, I heard what I wanted to hear when the rheumatologist said, "It will likely correct itself." And decided he was right.
I lived the next five years in chronic pain. I learned how to deal with it, even if some days, it was by gritting my teeth and a lot of deep breathing. It never got better. Instead, I found myself staring down the barrel of needing two total hip replacements by the age of 30.
It can take three years to get properly diagnosed when you're suffering from hip dysplasia or other hip related problems. There aren't adequate enough methods for diagnosing joint issues in young people. For this reason, it's imperative you advocate for yourself.
You know your body better than anyone. Speak up.
Here are 7 ways to be a better medical advocate for yourself, in order to get the answers you need when you're suffering from chronic hip pain.
1. Don't let anyone tell you you're too young to have hip problems.
Simply put, this is a bullshit way doctors will try to brush you off. You are not too young. It's important you don't accept this as an answer. Respond by saying, "I understand you probably don't see many cases like mine. But with all due respect, I know what I'm feeling, I know something is wrong and I'd like you to do more testing."
2. Do your research.
Doctors might mock the use of the internet to self-diagnose, but I can tell you from personal experience, every time I've used the internet to help me figure out what might be going on, I've come pretty damn close to being correct. Search and search again for potential reasons for your hip pain. Bring these to your doctor. If the first thing they check for comes back negative, ask them to check for the next thing on your list. It might feel obsessive, but you have to speak up for yourself. Be demanding.
3. Come prepared.
Because you're going to heed my advice and do some research before your appointment, I also want you to write out a list of questions for the doctor. It's easy to forget everything you wanted to ask. Avoid this, by writing your questions down ahead of time. I keep mine in the notes app on my phone. Additionally, write out a list of all your symptoms and how long they've been going on. This is important for two reasons.
It shows you're paying attention to your body, and your pain.
It ensures you won't forget to tell your doctor some pertinent piece of information.
4. If your first set of x-rays don't answer your question, ask for more.
One set of x-rays isn't always going to be telling of what's going on. If your condition hasn't advanced far, it may be more difficult to detect. Ask that more angles to be taken. Ask for an MRI or another test. It took me several x-rays before the doctor could see the full extent of my hip damage.
5. Bring someone with you.
When I first started going to the doctor for my hip pain, I went alone. The next time around, I recruited my mom to come along. I was much more confident by then to speak up for myself, but having a second set of ears to listen to the doctor is never a bad thing. Find someone you trust and ask them to be your new doctor buddy. They might think to ask questions you don't consider and pick up on things the doctor says that you might've missed.
6. Ask for documentation
Make sure you get copies of everything you discuss with your doctor and copies of all your test results. You'll want these for your own records, but also to take with you in the event you need to utilize the advice in number seven.
7. Find a new doctor.
If you're not getting answers from your current doctor, don't hesitate to find a new one. It doesn't matter how long you've been seeing this doctor, or if your BFF recommended them. If you're not getting answers, you're wasting your time.
I spent the last half of my 20's and the beginning of my 30's in a blur of chronic pain. It didn't have to be that way. Whether you're suffering from chronic joint pain or some other mysterious ailment, heed the advice here and stand up for yourself. You're not crazy and your pain is valid.