Managing Your Pain

Why pain management is important for your recovery

At some point everyone experiences pain. Most pain can be controlled. Good pain management helps patients to feel better and improves recovery. We want to make your stay in the hospital as pain-free as possible.

The Acute Pain Service is a team of doctors and nurses who have special training in managing pain. They work closely with you, your doctor, and other members of the health care team. A member of the Acute Pain Service will visit you regularly to assess your pain and lessen the pain you feel.

When you feel less pain, you will be able to:

  • Feel more comfortable while you heal
  • Begin activities that are important for your recovery such as:
    • Deep breathing and coughing
    • Moving about in bed
    • Sitting up in a chair
    • Walking

Medication for pain can be given in many different ways:

  • Pills or liquid
  • Transdermally (through the skin to the bloodstream)
  • Rectal suppository
  • Injection (needle)
  • Injection of drugs into a vein through an intravenous (I.V.)
  • Regional block (use of medicine to temporarily freeze major nerves)

In addition, the following methods of pain control may be considered for you:

Intravenous Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA)

  • Allows you to give your own small, but frequent safe and effective doses of pain medication, when you need it.
  • You can push the button before activities that you anticipate to be more painful.
  • It is important for your safety that only you push your PCA button. Family and friends are not allowed to do so.

Epidural Analgesia

  • Used to manage pain after major chest surgery, abdominal surgery or lower limb/joint replacement surgery.
  • A small plastic tube is placed in your back before the start of your anesthetic or during your surgery.
  • Local anesthetics and other medications are given through the tube to provide pain relief in the area of surgery.

Regional Analgesia

  • Involves giving local anesthetic as a single injection or placing a soft plastic tube near the nerves that carry pain signals.

Monitoring pain and its treatment: Using a pain rating scale

  • A pain rating scale is a helpful tool you can use to describe how much pain you are feeling.
  • Your doctor or nurse may ask you to rate your pain regularly.
  • Patterns in your scores help the health care team know if the medications ordered are working for you.
Pain Scale Faces
McCaffery, M. & Pasero, C. (1999). Pain: Clinical manual (2nd ed.). pp. 67, St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby

How to use the numeric rating scale

  1. Look at the picture of the rating scale. On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 means “no pain” and 10 means “the worst possible pain”. The middle of the scale (around 5) describes “moderate pain”.
  2. Pain includes many types of discomfort and can occur anywhere in your body. It can feel like a dull ache, or it can be severe and unbearable. Pain can include pulling, tightness, cramping, burning, stabbing, or other unpleasant sensations.

The difference between physical tolerance and addiction

  • Tolerance means your body has become familiar with regular doses of your pain medication.
  • Addiction to pain medicine would mean that your pain has gone away, but you still take the medicine regularly.