Pain management encompasses more than meets the eye. For those who have never experienced chronic or severe pain, it can be hard to understand why pain management requires so much study and care. The fact is there are many different sources of pain, and pain can be expressed in the body in many different ways. When patients seek palliative care, they are placed in the hands of pain management experts who use a multi-disciplinary approach to treating their symptoms.
The first thing a pain management specialist needs to determine is the severity of the pain and its location. Patients typically rate their pain on a scale from 1-10, although we know that patients who have lived with prolonged chronic pain may grow accustomed to a base level of discomfort and rate their pain as being less severe than it actually is at first. Doctors will investigate the area where the pain persists, and track down the original source of the pain, which may be located somewhere other than where the pain is actually being presented. For instance, pain at the base of the skull may actually be caused by injuries in the lower neck or shoulders.
Another consideration is whether the pain is ongoing or intermittent. If a patient is in constant discomfort, it is easier to identify the source and come up with a stable treatment plan that will work day to day. However, if the patient only experiences intermittent flare ups, tracking down the source and creating a treatment plan can be more complex.
Once the pain has been identified clearly, a treatment plan is created. Doctors begin the treatment plan with non-pharmacological options first, including different forms of therapy and exercise that may relieve pain temporarily or help rebuild muscle strength that will prevent pain in the future. In the short term, the doctor may prescribe some pain relievers with plan for reducing intake over time if it appears that the problem will go away with regular therapy. Otherwise, the doctor will create a long term plan for safe usage of pain relievers when no other option is available.
These are the major components of pain management for patients with chronic and severe pain. For patients in palliative care, it is common to see a combination of therapy, exercise and pain relievers used to manage symptoms and boost quality of life. For more information about pain management, contact Wings of Hope today and speak to one of our patient specialists.