Most people fear being in pain. The simple fact of fearing that pain is going to increase may, in itself, make the pain worse. It is difficult to think and make decisions when you are in pain or frightened that pain will return.
The brain can change the way you feel pain. Parts of the brain that control our emotions can increase or decrease the sensation of pain. So, if you are anxious you may feel more pain, and if you are relaxed you may feel less pain. Sometimes the nerves carrying messages to and from the brain become ‘sensitised’ or ‘wound up’. This means that you continue to feel pain even when what was causing the pain has been treated.
Tips for managing pain at home
It is important to always report any new pain to your doctor even if you think you know the cause. If pain is treated early, it may be managed with less medication or other treatment. Some useful suggestions to manage pain which you can discuss with your doctor and your local palliative care services include:
- Keep a pain diary, use cold/warm packs, use breakthrough painkillers and physical aids
- Ensure you take your pain medications regularly and take breakthrough doses as and when needed
- Back supports may make sitting more comfortable for you. Ask to speak to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist who can advise you on what is available
- Frames (bed cradles) to keep linen and blankets off a painful area may help
- Positioning yourself well can relieve pain
- Constipation can make discomfort and pain worse and preventing constipation can prevent pain.
- Distraction can be useful – conversation or a good book or film
When to call for help
- Any time you are worried
- When there is a new pain or worsening of an old pain
- When sleep is disturbed by pain
- When the painkillers do not seem to be working very well or for very long
- When the painkillers are causing troubling side effects such as sickness, constipation, drowsiness or confusion.