Pain is physical discomfort usually caused by illness and injury. You can experience pain in two ways. One is the unpleasant sensation of pain – or what you feel. The other is the emotions and fears that pain causes.
There are two types of pain:
- usually only lasts a short time
- caused by something recent such as a surgery, injury or illness
- lasts longer than three months
- the cause can sometimes cannot be found or healed
- often something that the person learns to function and live with
- pain relief methods are often helpful because medications along normally don’t take away all of the pain
Uncontrolled pain causes suffering and can slow down recovery. Treating any pain your experiencing can help you heel faster and live a better life by:
- helping you rest
- giving you a better appetite
- improving your mood
- giving you more energy
There are many ways to manage your pain, including pain medication or non-pharmacological options.
Non-pharmacological pain remedies
These complementary therapies do not replace your pain medicines, but can be used with medicines to give you even more relief. They may also be used during the time you are waiting for your pain medication to reach its peak effect. In most cases you have
a choice. Your doctor can help you choose the best drug and non-drug treatments for your pain.
- patient/family education - provides you and your family/friends ways to control pain using various healing techniques
- community support groups and educational programs - helps you and family/friends learn more about your diagnosis, how to handle your disease and control pain through support of others dealing with the same problem
- exercise, yoga, tai chi, walking - gentle, appropriate movement can reduce tension, anxiety, depression and fatigue. May also help with nausea.
- heat - can reduce the pain caused by sore muscles and muscle spasms
- ice - can reduce pain that comes from joint problems or irritated nerves
- massage - can help your body heal itself by breaking down muscle tension and pressure on nerves
- relaxation through deep breathing - deep breathing can help improve your ability to cope, control stress and slow thinking down
- distraction - changing your attention to something else such as reading, music, walking or talking to a friend can help decrease your awareness of pain
- meditation - opening your mind to bring awareness to breathing, body sensations and feelings to deal with chronic pain, panic disorders and anxiety
- prayer - can provide relief from pain by providing you comfort and support during periods of illness, trauma or stress
- guided visual imagery - allows your mind to take you to a place that is safe and comfortable
- humor - can help relieve anger, anxiety and tension, improves breathing and helps your heart
- music - can help with relaxation, decreases anxiety, nausea and vomiting
Medications for pain are called analgesics. They may not make all of your pain go away, but they can lower your pain to an amount you feel comfortable with. The medicine you take depends on which type of pain you are experiencing.
Some pain medications include:
- opioids (also called narcotics) - used for severe to moderate pain
- non-opioids - Tylenol is an example of a non-opioid
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) - Advil or Motrin are
- muscle relaxants, antidepressants and anticonvulsants - other medicines that may help relieve your pain when taken alone or with other pain medicines
Frequently Asked Questions
Do pain medicines have side effects?
All medicines can have side effects. Constipation, upset stomach, nausea and drowsiness are common side effects of pain medicines. You have the right to ask your doctor about possible side effects of your medicines before taking them.
If you experience these or other side effects, talk with your doctor.
How long will pain relief last?
This depends on the medicine you were given. Some medications work for a short time. Other medications work for 12 hours or more. Your medications may be ordered on a routine schedule or as needed.
If I take narcotics, will I become an addict?
The chance of becoming addicted is small, but is not to be taken lightly. Between five and eight percent of surgical patients who never used opioids prior to their surgery become chronic opioid users. In some surgeries, it is as many
as twenty percent of patients. It is important to follow your health care provider’s instructions.
Facts about opioids and addiction
- the United States makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but consumes eighty percent of the world opioid supply
- unused opioids can get into the community and have devastating effects
- seventy percent of people who misuse opioids got them from a friend or family member
- you are more likely to become a chronic opioid user following surgery than you are to develop a blood clot, infection or heart attack
Safety when prescribed opioids
If prescribed opioids:
- use them only as instructed by the physician
- never take opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed
- your physician will prescribe an appropriate number of pills for your condition. You will likely NOT need additional medications or more pills than your physician prescribes
- avoid these other drugs while taking opioids:
- Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium), unless specifically advised by a physician
- muscle relaxants (such as Soma or Flexeril), unless specifically advised by a physician
- hypnotics (such as Ambien or Lunesta), unless specifically advised by a physician
- avoid other prescription opioid pain relievers unless specifically advised by a physician
- work with a physician to create a plan on how to manage pain and consider non-opioid and non-pharmacologic options
- follow up regularly with a physician
- talk to a physician about any and all side effects and concerns
- store opioid pain relievers in a safe place and out of reach of others
- help prevent misuse and abuse by not selling or sharing prescription opioid pain relievers
- diversion of a controlled substance is a felony
- never use another person’s prescription opioids
- find a community drug take-back program or a pharmacy mail-back program to safely dispose of unused prescription opioids pain relievers