How to Manage Your Pain

Categories: Education.

Good pain management improves quality of life. Managing pain to live life fully is possible! It is important that the treatment of your pain is based on your diagnosis, stage of disease, response to pain and treatments, and personal likes and dislikes. Pain can be safely managed at home in a partnership between you and your physician. Becoming knowledgeable about your pain and learning to advocate for yourself will help you and your physician address your pain in a way that works for you.

Below are some general guidelines that can help anyone to manage their pain more effectively.

Use pain medicines as prescribed

If the prescription says to take the medicine at certain times or at certain time intervals (for example, every six hours), make sure this is done. Do not wait until the pain comes back to take the medicine. This will cause needless suffering.

One of the important ways that pain medicine works is that it helps to prevent episodes of severe pain. In order to do this, there has to be a certain amount of medicine in the blood. This is why the doctor prescribes taking the medicine at regular intervals – to be sure that the amount in the blood level stays high enough.

Insist on good pain control

Let your physician know if your pain treatment is not working and ask about pain clinics. If your doctor cannot control the pain, ask for a referral to a pain clinic that has a team of people (doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists) that specialize in pain treatment. In addition to universities and large hospitals which often have these types of clinics, there are pain centers and clinics in many local communities.

Use a pain diary

A ‘pain diary’ is a way for you to track information about your pain to help you tell your doctor when you are in pain and how it felt. Since the way you feel may change day-to-day or when you do certain activities; it is important for you to write it down several times a day.

Help to reduce pain

Use warm showers, baths, hot water bottles, or warm washcloths. Heat relaxes muscles; this can help reduce pain and give a sense of comfort. Do not set heating pads on high because they can burn the skin. Also, try gently massaging sore spots, such as neck and shoulders. Check with your doctor about how long to apply heat since prolonged exposure to heat can cause tissue damage.

Use cool cloths

Cooling the skin and muscles can soothe pain, especially pain that comes from inflammation or swelling. For example, many people find that using a cool washcloth on their forehead reduces pain when they have a headache. Check with your doctor about how long to apply cold since prolonged exposure to cold can cause tissue damage.

Encourage relaxation

Position yourself carefully with pillows and soft seat cushions. Breathing slowly and quietly helps the mind and body to relax and helps decrease pain. Simple relaxation methods can be learned from books on relaxation techniques which are available at most bookstores. Relaxation audiotapes can also be purchased through most bookstores.

Try enjoyable activities

Being active takes the mind off the pain. Distractions such as pleasant visits with friends and loved ones should be encouraged. Watching television, reading, and listening to music may also decrease a person’s awareness of pain.

Avoid stressful events when possible. Emotional stress and anxiety increase pain.

Ask for help

Tell someone about your pain; do not suffer in silence. Talk about how you feel and share your thoughts, concerns and choices with your family and friends. Find support from others in similar situations. Ask for help even if it may be difficult for you to do so. Chances are your family and friends have asked what they can do to help you. When people ask you how they can help, tell them. You need family and friends to help you manage your pain and move on with your life. But they can help you only if you help them understand what your needs are and how they can be met. *

* ©1999-2002 The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging. All Rights Reserved.

Managing Emotional and Spiritual Pain

In addition to medication, there are healthy ways to deal with emotions people often have when they are living with pain. Living with chronic pain can take a toll on your mood, outlook, relationships and self-image. It may be important to seek help from a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, social worker or your faith community leader. By getting additional emotional and spiritual support, you can learn new ‘life’ skills to become more effective at managing pain, which can enhance your medical treatment.

  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Ask your doctor or loved one to connect you with a counselor, chaplain or other professional to find the resources for emotional and spiritual support.
  • Share your feelings with friends, family members, healthcare professionals, faith leaders and others you respect.
  • Talk with people who are or have been in a similar situation.
  • Write about your feelings in a journal.
  • Explore your faith and/or spiritual beliefs through readings or discussions with family members, friends or faith leaders.
  • Reflect on the role of faith and/or spirituality throughout your life and ways that you have found comfort in the past.