What You Should Know about Pain Management
There are many different causes and kinds of pain. Pain can be caused by injury, illness,
sickness, disease, or surgery. Treating pain is the responsibility of your doctor, nurse, and other
caregivers. You can help them by asking questions and finding out more about how to relieve
your pain. This handout has some questions and answers to help you do that.
Talk About Your Pain
Is it important for doctors and nurses to ask about your pain?
Yes. This is because pain changes over time or your pain medicine may not be working.
Doctors and nurses should ask about your pain regularly.
What do you need to tell your doctor and nurse about your pain?
First, tell them that you have pain, even if they don’t ask. Your doctor or nurse may ask you to
describe how bad your pain is on a scale of 0 (zero) to 10 with 10 being the worst pain. They
may use other pain scales that use words, colors, faces, or pictures. Tell them where and when it
hurts. Tell them if you can't sleep or do things like dressing or climbing stairs because of pain.
The more they know about your pain the better they can treat it. The words in the list below can
be used to describe your pain.
▪ aching ▪ dull ▪ sharp
▪ bloating ▪ numbing ▪ shooting
▪ burning ▪ pressing ▪ soreness
▪ cramping ▪ pressure ▪ stabbing
▪ comes and goes ▪ pulling ▪ throbbing
▪ constant ▪ radiating ▪ tightness
▪ cutting ▪ searing
Managing Your Pain
What can be done to treat pain?
There are many ways to manage your pain. There are medicines that can be used to relieve pain.
There are also other ways to treat pain without taking medicine. Your doctor will work with you
to find out what works best for you.
What are the side effects of pain medicines?
It depends on the medicine. Side effects can include constipation, nausea, vomiting, itching, and
sleepiness. Refer to Health Facts for You #4922 for more information.
Are there other ways to relieve pain?
That will depend on your illness or condition and how much pain you have. Sometimes pain can
be relieved in other ways. Some other treatments for pain are listed here.
▪ Acupuncture, which uses small needles to block pain
▪ Taking your mind off the pain with movies, games, and conversation
▪ Electrical nerve stimulation, which uses small jolts of electricity to block pain
▪ Physical therapy ▪ Exercise
▪ Hypnosis ▪ Heat or cold
▪ Massage ▪ Relaxation
Refer to Health Facts for You # 4448 for more detail on other methods of pain relief.
Are you afraid to take a pain medicine?
You may have had a bad experience taking pain medicine in the past. Perhaps you had to deal
with a side effect or a bad reaction. Or you may be taking a lot of other medicines. Your doctor
or nurse should be able to ease your fears.
Are you afraid that you’ll become addicted to pain medicine?
This is a common concern of patients. Studies show that addiction is unlikely. This is especially
true if the patient has never been addicted. Talk to your doctor or nurse about your fears.
Are you afraid that your pain medicine won’t work if you take it for a long time?
This is called “tolerance.” It means that after awhile your body gets used to the medicine and
you need to make a change to get pain relief. It is also possible that the cause of your pain is
getting worse or you have a new type of pain. You may need more medicine or a different kind
of medicine to control your pain. Tell your doctor or nurse about your fears.
When nerves are hurt or do not work the way they should, they can cause “neuropathic” pain.
Neuropathic pain is often described as intense, burning, tingling, shooting, or feeling like electric
shocks. The pain can be constant or it can come and go. Some people may have numbness,
tingling, and pricking feelings, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness. Sometimes, something
as simple as a light touch, cold, or even taking a shower can result in severe pain. If you are
having neuropathic pain, please speak with your Health Care provider to find a treatment.
Coping with Your Chronic Pain
Unlike acute pain, where pain only lasts a short time, chronic pain may last for years. Chronic
pain often has many causes that can change over time. These causes can include:
Changes in the nervous system.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, or stress.
No matter what the cause is, chronic pain is real. It does not go away. It can lead to a loss of
physical activity and sleep, a sense of uncertainty about the future, and feelings of helplessness.
Learning to manage pain is important to your health and well being. In spite of the reason for
your pain, you can change some aspects of the problems pain can cause by learning to manage it.
Use a “Multimodal” Approach
There are no simple and easy ways to manage chronic pain. But, this doesn’t mean we give up.
There are many options and ways to combine treatments to reduce your pain and take back
control of your life. Each person needs a plan that includes both drug and non-drug methods.
Just as pain is rarely controlled with non-drug methods alone, pain cannot be managed with
drugs alone. It may take many trials to find the best approach for you.
Refer to Health Facts for You #5298 if you have chronic pain.
Website - www.jointcommission.org
Used with permission of The Joint Commission.
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 © 3/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HFFY#7109