There are many methods that can be used to treat pain. Many people need two or more methods to get greater relief. It is important to take an active role in a plan to control your pain. You may want to write down your questions before you meet with your doctor or nurse.
Be sure to discuss the following:
- Whether there will be much pain with your illness, treatment, or after surgery
- Where the pain may occur
- Pain control methods that have worked well or not so well for you before. Common pain control methods include pain medicine, relaxation techniques, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
- Any concerns or fears you may have about pain medicines
- Any allergies or side effects that occur with pain medicines
- Medicines you take for other health problems. Your caregivers need to know, because mixing medications with some pain medicines can cause problems.
In some cases, you will need medicine to help your pain. You and your doctors and nurses will decide which medications are right for you. Studies have shown that it is easier to control pain before it occurs or when it is at a low level. That’s why you should let your caregivers know when you have pain as early as possible.
Mild Pain Relievers
Acetaminophen: (e.g., Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin), and ketoralac (e.g., Toradol) are some commonly used mild pain relief medications. Some of these medications will reduce swelling and irritation, but can also relieve pain.
Moderate to Severe Pain Relievers
Morphine, meperidine (e.g., Demerol) and hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) are commonly used pain medications. They may be taken by mouth, in the muscle (IM as a "shot"), in the vein (using Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) and as intermittent injections by a nurse), or through a small tube in your back (epidural catheter).
Do not be afraid of becoming addicted to pain medication. Studies have shown that when used for pain control, the risk is extremely low. This is true even for long-term use of opiates.
Complementary Pain Treatments
In addition to medicine, there are many complementary methods that can be used to reduce pain. These methods can be effective for mild to moderate pain and to boost the pain-relief effects of the medicine. You may need the help of health professionals to learn to do these for yourself. Friends and family members can help you with some of them. You may also choose a modality (acupuncture, hypnosis, or physical therapy, for example) that requires you to work with a licensed professional in that particular specialty.
Tension makes all pain worse. By using techniques that relax muscles and calm tension, a person can lessen pain, and gain more control over it.
Relaxation techniques include:
- Guided imagery
- Progressive relaxation
Physical therapies that can help alleviate pain include:
- Exercise (walking) and stretching
- Application of heat and cold
- Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS)
Acupuncture is a medical practice that involves the gentle insertion of very fine needles in specific points along the body to activate healing and reduce pain.
You (or your advocate) need to tell the healthcare team about your pain and how the pain control plan is working. Stick with your plan if your pain is under control. Your doctors and nurses can change the plan if your pain is not under control. Remember that our goal for you is to minimize your experience of pain in the hospital.