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 document has some questions and
answers to help you do that.
Questions to Ask Your Provider
▪ What pain medicine is being ordered
or given to you?
▪ Can you explain the doses and times
that the medicine needs to be taken?
▪ How often should you take the
▪ How long will you need to take the
▪ Can you take the pain medicine with
▪ Can you take the pain medicine with
your other medicines?
▪ Should you avoid drinking alcohol
while taking the pain medicine?
▪ What are the side effects of the pain
▪ What should you do if the medicine
makes you sick to your stomach?
▪ What can you do if the pain
medicine is not working?
▪ What else can you do to help treat
Talking 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
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. Scales using colors, faces or
pictures may be used for children. 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 below can be used to
describe your pain.
▪ aching ▪ dull ▪ sharp
▪ bloating ▪ numbing ▪ shooting
▪ burning ▪ pressing ▪ soreness
▪ cramping ▪ pressure ▪ stabbing
▪ constant ▪ searing
What can you do when your pain gets
Tell your doctor or nurse. Tell them how
bad your pain is or if you’re in pain most of
the time. Tell the doctor if the pain
medicine you're taking is not helping.
Should you include pain medicine on your
list of medicines or medication card?
Yes! Even pain medicine that you will take
for a short time should be listed with all of
your other medicines. List all of your pain
medicines — those prescribed by your
doctor and those you buy over-the-counter
on your own.
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 some of the medicines used to
Some pain medicines are acetaminophen,
aspirin, and opioids. Opioids include
morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone.
Many of these medicines come in pills,
liquids, suppositories, and skin patches.
Some pain may be treated with medicines
that are not usually thought of as pain
relievers. For example, antidepressants.
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
▪ 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
What are the side effects of pain
It depends on the medicine. Side effects can
include constipation, nausea, vomiting,
itching, and sleepiness.
** Constipation can be a significant side
effect when taking narcotic pain medicines.
It can include hard stools or not having a
stool more than every 2-3 days. If you have
a history of constipation or develop
constipation, speak with your doctor or
nurse on ways to prevent or treat
constipation. You should have a stool every
day or every other day.
What can you do if you have side effects
or a bad reaction?
Call your doctor or nurse as soon as you can.
Find out what can be done to treat the side
effect. Ask if there is another pain medicine
that may work better for you.
Are you afraid to take a pain medicine?
You may have had a bad experience taking
pain medicine in the past, such as a side
effect or 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's also possible that the
condition causing 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.
Can you crush pills if you can’t swallow
Check with your doctor, nurse or
pharmacist. Some medicines can be crushed
and some cannot. For example, time-release
medicines should not be crushed. Ask your
doctor or nurse if the medicine comes in a
liquid or can be given another way.
Website - www.jointcommission.org
Used with permission of The Joint Commission.
First printed 10/28/2009.
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 © 9/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospital
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4922