Pain Management Tips During
Your Emergency Department (ED) Visit
Pain is a common reason many people come to the ED. People feel pain in different ways.
Many things can affect how you feel pain and to what degree a person feels pain. Pain
management is a key part of your care in the ED.
How Pain is Managed in the ER
The main goal of your care in the ED is to find out what’s wrong with you and to provide
emergency care. The doctors and nurses will work with you to find the best and safest way to
control your pain during your visit. Please let us know if there are pain treatments that have been
helpful to you in the past.
We may use methods other than giving you medicine to help treat your pain such as.
▪ Cold pack
▪ Heat pack
o Dimming the lights
o Certain TV channels may provide some nice distractions for you. Specifically,
our ED TVs inside rooms have:
Chuckle Channel (Channel 10)
Care Channel (Channel 11)
Healing Channel (Channel 15)
▪ Deep breathing
How to Get the Best Pain Control
It is crucial that you take an active role in a plan to control your pain. Be sure to talk to your
doctors and nurses about these things.
1. Discuss your pain control options with your doctors and nurses.
▪ Talk with your nurses and doctors about any concerns or fears you may have about pain
▪ Tell your doctors and nurses about any allergies to medicines you may have.
▪ Ask about side effects that may occur with pain treatment.
▪ Talk with your doctors and nurses about the medicines you take for other health
problems. We need to know, because mixing some medicines can cause problems.
2. Work with you doctors and nurses to make a pain control plan.
▪ Talk to your doctors and nurses about how they will treat your pain in the ED. Ask about
a realistic pain control goal during your visit (for instance, reducing your pain enough to
get through a test such as a CT scan).
▪ You may or may not need prescription or over-the-counter pain medicine. You need to
understand the different kinds of pain medicines and how to use them safely for your type
▪ Make sure you understand the plan for pain control after you leave the ED and who to call
if you have any questions or problems.
Non-Drug Methods to Relieve Pain
There are many other ways to reduce pain. These methods can be effective for all types of pain
and can boost the pain-relief effects of medicine.
▪ Cold or warm packs
▪ Distraction can be as simple as watching TV or reading a book, or as complex as a recording
that instructs you on activities to perform
▪ Imagery is using your imagination to create mental pictures or situations to help reduce your
Just as with medicine, all the methods listed above may not work for you. You will want to try a
few methods, both alone and together to see which work best for you.
A Pain Control Plan After You Leave
You will be given a set of written instructions for your care after you leave the ED. If you need
continued pain management after you leave, the instructions will include information about a
pain management plan. A pain management plan is a way to organize all the possible ways to
reduce your pain. A pain management plan may include a list of medicines and other non-drug
treatments you can use to manage your pain. If pain medicine is needed we are only able to
provide a limited supply to manage the acute need until you can see your regular doctor. It is
important to understand which doctor or clinic to contact for follow-up care or questions after
you leave the ED.
Your input into the plan is vital if it is to work. Be sure the plan makes sense to you. You must
be able to both understand and follow it. There is no one best plan that works for all people.
What works today may not be the best plan in a week or a month from now.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©1/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6917.