Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns
Pain – What may help
The healthcare provider will want to know about all medications being used at this time, even if the medication doesn’t require a prescription, such as acetaminophen (plain Tylenol) or an herbal remedy. Click below for some things healthcare providers and families can do to help.
What the healthcare provider can do
They can recommend certain medications to treat the type of pain the person is having. Sometimes it takes time to find the best combination of medications. Good communication can help find the best approach.
In some circumstances, they may recommend a combination of treatments, such as medication and radiation to manage pain from cancer in a specific area.
The best judge of pain is the person experiencing it. It’s important to believe what the person is saying about their pain; treatment will not be successful unless people trust what the person experiencing the pain tells them.
What families can do
They will want to know about medication side effects, if the pain medication isn’t working, or if it doesn’t work as long as expected. If pain occurs between doses of medication, this may signal a need to change the dose or consider something else.
Some people feel they should “be brave and bear” pain, but there is no medical reason to do so. In fact, treating pain early makes it easier to manage. Fortunately, there are many options available to treat pain.
Take pain medication on a regular schedule.
If pain is always there, it needs to be treated with a regular, scheduled dose; otherwise, the person ends up one step behind their pain instead of in front of it.
If pain occurs in between regular doses of medication, it’s important to treat it. A fast-acting pain medication, often referred to as a breakthrough or rescue dose, is usually prescribed for this. Keep track of how often this is needed. If breakthrough doses are required more than two or three times a day, it’s important to talk to the healthcare provider.
Sometimes people who are seriously ill may have difficulty swallowing medication. Medications can often be given in different ways:
- Liquid drops may be given under the tongue.
- Liquid medication may be given under the skin through a small plastic tube that stays in place.
- Medication patches can sometimes be prescribed for pain instead of pills. However, the person’s pain needs to be well managed before a patch is considered.
Complementary strategies can be used in addition to pain medications. Talk to a healthcare provider before using any of these techniques. Even simple things, like a heating pad, can have side effects. *See Complementary therapies and relaxation strategies PDF below.