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Keeping well: pain

What is pain?

This is difficult to define. Everybody experiences pain differently so pain is what the person experiencing it says it is.

What causes it?

  • physical causes – these may or may not be related to the illness – and
  • emotional, spiritual or social causes – these nonphysical aspects may cause physical pain to increase.

For example, people who are anxious or depressed may experience greater pain than people who are not.

What can you do?

  • Ensure that painkillers are taken regularly (see following pages). It is better to keep the pain at bay, so encourage the taking of regular painkillers, even if there is no pain when they are due.
  • Ensure that ‘when needed’ painkillers are taken for breakthrough pain.
  • Monitor the pain in terms of:
    • Patterns of pain – Where is the pain? How far does it extend? What makes it worse? What makes it better?
    • Types of pain – Is it an aching, stabbing, burning or shooting pain?
    • Effect of painkillers – Do they help? How much? How long for?
    • How many extra painkillers are being taken? Do they help?
    • Keep a diary of what does and does not help so that your nurse can look at it with you and work out a pain plan.
    • Use other methods such as gentle massage, heat pads, encourage relaxation. These things can help.

What to do if your pain plan is not working

Contact your St Christopher’s nurse:

  • when there is a new pain or a 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 or
  • when the painkillers are causing troubling side-effects, e.g. sickness, constipation, drowsiness or confusion.

We sometimes find it helpful to refer people on for massage, aromatherapy, physiotherapy or an appointment with one of our doctors; We will review your pain plan regularly and discuss it with the multiprofessional team.