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    Pain Management

    What is pain?
    Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of your body. Pain medicine and non-drug pain treatments block these messages or reduces their effect on your brain.

    Pain Management

    Some people come to Mills-Peninsula for treatment of painful conditions such as kidney stones, chronic back pain or pain from cancer. Others have painful procedures such as surgery or a biopsy. Most of the time using medications and other non-drug therapies can reduce your pain, but sometimes it cannot be completely eliminated. While you are receiving care with us, we want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Here we outline what you can expect from our staff to manage your pain as well as what your responsibilities are in managing your pain.
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    Why is it important to control pain?

    If your pain is controlled, you will be able to move and walk around more, participate in recommended therapies, such as physical or respiratory therapy, and rest comfortably. All of these things will help speed your recovery.

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    How can pain be controlled while I’m receiving treatment?

    Both drug and non-drug treatments can help reduce your pain. You, your doctor and nurses will work together to decide what works best for you. Drug treatment methods include:

    • Intravenous medication: A nurse gives pain medicine through an I.V. line.
    • PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia): A special computerized pump gives you pain medicine through an I.V. line when you feel pain and press a button.
    • Epidural: A small catheter (very small tube) is placed in your back by an anesthesiologist. Medicine is administered through the catheter, either by a nurse or by the PCA.
    • Injection: A nurse gives pain medicine by injection into a muscle.
    • Pills or liquid: Medication that is taken by mouth.

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    Timing of Pain Medications

    All of these pain medications can be given at scheduled times or as needed. If you are taking these medications as needed, it is important to take them when you first start feeling pain. This is when they will be most effective.

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    What kind of side effects can I get from pain medicines?

    The following are common side effects with pain medicines, although many people do not have all of these side effects.

    • Constipation
    • Dizziness
    • Drowsiness
    • Dry mouth
    • Itchiness
    • Nausea and vomiting

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    Are there alternatives to pain medication?

    There also are non-drug treatments for pain. These often are very helpful when used along with pain medicine:

    • Ice or heat: Place ice or heat on or near the painful area for periods of about 15 minutes or less.
    • Breathing exercises: Breathe in and out slowly and deeply at a comfortable rate. As you get into a comfortable rhythm, try to breathe in to a count of three or five, and out to a count of three or five. Repeat for a cycle of 10 breaths or longer.
    • Visualization: Visualize yourself in your favorite outdoor place, quietly sitting, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, feeling at peace and in total comfort and safety.
    • Therapeutic touch/massage: Gently place your hand over the painful area, either touching it gently or holding just above it without touching. (If you are unable to reach the area, imagine your hand over the painful area.) Think of the pain leaving your body as your hand remains for a minute or two over the area.
    • Positive thoughts: Affirmations and prayer is undeniable, yet not totally understood. Practicing these may help decrease pain.

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    What can I do to help manage pain?

    • Do your homework: Before you have a procedure or surgery, ask about the amount of pain you can expect during and after. Find out how the pain can be managed. Ask how long the pain is likely to last.
    • Choose a goal: By using drug and non-drug therapies, your pain will be reduced, but probably not eliminated. You will be asked to choose a pain goal - that is an acceptable level of pain at which you are comfortable enough to do light activity. Your doctors and nurses will help you use this goal to determine when and how much pain relief therapies work best for you.
    • Treat pain when it starts: Pain medication and non-drug therapies are much more effective when your pain first starts. Don’t wait - the more severe your pain, the more medicine and time it will take to relieve it.
    • Be prepared: If you have pain, you may need to take pain medicine before you do activities such as walking. Plan your day to include time to take pain medicine so you can maximize your activity.
    • Don’t fear addiction: Many studies have shown that people who use medication to manage pain from a procedure, surgery or medical condition rarely become “addicted” to the medicine. “Addiction” means taking the medicine when you don’t have pain, but like the feeling the medicine gives you.

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    How do I tell my doctor, nurse or therapist about my pain?

    Your doctors and nurses will regularly ask if you are having pain. They will ask you to use a scale to tell them how much it hurts. Most often they will ask you to choose a number between “0” (no pain) and “10” (worst pain you can imagine) that best describes your pain.

    Below is an example of another way your pain can be measured. You can let your doctor or nurse know your pain level by pointing to the face that most closely communicates how you feel.
    Visual Aids for indicating pain
    Your doctors and nurses will ask more questions about your pain in order to get a better idea of what is causing it and how best to relieve it.

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    What should I do when I go home?

    Keep the following things in mind:

    • Make sure you understand all your medications, including the proper dosage and possible side effects, before you go home. Ask your doctor or nurse about anything that is not clear.
    • Take your pain medication as prescribed. If you skip a dose, your pain may get worse, and it may not be relieved as well as if you stay on your medication schedule.
    • Continue using non-drug treatments for pain.
    • Contact your doctor’s office if your pain is not being controlled with the medicine prescribed, or if you are concerned about side effects.

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