Pain management

Pain is a symptom which is common to most if not all types of diseases, illnesses and injuries. It ranges from mild through to severe (acute or chronic) and causes a great deal of distress to the patient. But pain can be controlled or managed in order to reduce the distress caused and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Acute or short term pain can be treated within a short space of time but chronic or long term pain requires a programme of medication and psychological measures. The overall aim is the same: to ease pain and reduce suffering.

There are specialists from all branches of medicine who are trained in pain management. They apply different approaches to this issue: some are concerned with the actual medication used whereas others look at interventionist methods and coping strategies. A pain management team may consist of a psychologist or psychiatrist, neurologist, specialist nurse and a physician.

Examples of pain management

The type of pain management you receive depends upon the severity of your pain. Pain is categorised as mild, mild to moderate and moderate to severe when deciding upon the appropriate type of response.

Analgesics (painkillers) are a popular choice of medication which on the body’s nervous system, reducing pain and other symptoms. They include:

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Opioids, e.g. morphine
  • Paracetamol

And, anti-epileptic drugs, anti-depressants and muscle relaxants.

There are other forms of medication apart from those which are taken orally, and a range of non-pharmaceutical options as well. These are:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal cord stimulator
  • Intrathecal pump: this is used to deliver medication into the spinal fluid in a similar way to an epidural.
  • Physical exercise
  • Biofeedback
  • Steroid injections
  • Ice/heat packs

Pain management for chronic or terminal diseases requires a concerted effort on the part of a multidisciplinary team of professionals with the requisite skills. Their goal is to reduce pain whilst the patient is undergoing treatment and during their recovery period. This also applies in cases where doctors are unable to identify the cause of their pain but look to ease this distressing state nevertheless.

Pain relief is important in conditions such as cancer, particularly end stage cancer where the patient is made comfortable and free from pain as much as possible. Morphine is used to achieve this state and the dosage increases as the disease progresses.