Chapter 1: Medication types and uses
To treat a symptom such as pain, a healthcare provider will typically put a person on a pain medication schedule. The healthcare provider will also ensure the person has pain medication to use in case they experience a pain “flare-up” in between regular scheduled pain medication. The medication used in between is commonly referred to as “breakthrough,” or “as needed” medication. The term “breakthrough” refers to the pain symptom that is breaking through between the person’s regular scheduled pain medication.
It’s very important to keep track of breakthrough medications using a pain diary or symptom diary. Click the arrows below to view questions that can be helpful with your diary entries.
Can you describe the symptom? (Where did it happen? How strong? What did it feel like?)
What medication was given? (How much? What time?)
How effective was the medication? (Did it relieve the symptom completely or partially? How long did it take to work?)
What seemed to be happening at the time of the flare-up? (What was your loved one doing and feeling at the time?)
Information about common symptoms and how to keep a symptom diary are fully covered in Module 7, Recognizing symptoms to assess comfort.
Words of wisdom
It is helpful to write down and keep track of what was happening at the time of the flare-up. This information can help your healthcare team decide if adjustments should be made to medications.