Treatment for pain has evolved to the degree that it now is recognized as a specialized area of medicine.
Throughout the country, hospitals and health care providers are committed to assessing and managing
pain symptoms for both chronic and acute conditions. In fact, there is such a strong emphasis on treating
pain that the Joint Commission, which certifies hospitals, now requires that pain assessment be
considered a “vital sign” like a pulse or blood pressure measurement. Hospitals must now inform
patients of their right to appropriate treatment for pain, must assess a patient’s pain and treat it until it is
relieved, and must educate providers on proper pain management techniques. Fortunately, this new
focus on pain management has been met with great success. Most pain can be controlled or significantly
People are often afraid to talk honestly about their pain or to take medication that will relieve their
suffering because they are afraid of side effects. In fact, many of these worries are myths. The realities
of good pain management lead to vastly improved quality of life for most people. Some common myths
that are associated with pain management are listed on the next page.
Myth: A person could become addicted to pain medication, especially if narcotics are prescribed.
REALITY: STUDIES SHOW THAT THE THERE IS VERY LITTLE LIKELIHOOD OF BECOMING ADDICTED WHEN THERE IS NO PRIOR HISTORY OF DRUG ADDICTION.
Myth: There are some types of pain that can’t be relieved.
REALITY: INJURY, SURGICAL PROCEDURES AND CERTAIN DISEASES WILL CLEARLY PRODUCE PAIN; HOWEVER, WITH THOROUGH EVALUATION AND USE OF THE APPROPRIATE MEDICATIONS, PAIN CAN BE EFFECTIVELY MANAGED IN AT LEAST 90 PERCENT OF PEOPLE. MOREOVER, PROPER TREATMENT OF PAIN HELPS TO SPEED RECOVERY AFTER INJURY OR SURGERY. PERSONS WITH LESS PAIN ARE ABLE TO BREATHE MORE DEEPLY, WALK WITH GREATER EASE AND RECOVER FASTER WITH FEWER COMPLICATIONS. PROPER TREATMENT OF PAIN ALSO IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THOSE WITH TERMINAL CONDITIONS.
Myth: Treatment with pain medications produces side effects equally as unpleasant as the pain.
REALITY: THE VAST MAJORITY OF SIDE EFFECTS FROM PAIN MEDICATION CAN BE TREATED SUCCESSFULLY.
Myth: Taking pain medication will make a person sleep all of the time.
REALITY: DIFFERENT COMBINATIONS OF MEDICATIONS ARE AVAILABLE THAT MINIMIZE DROWSINESS FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO WISH TO REMAIN AWAKE. FOR SOME PEOPLE, SLEEP MAY BE A WELCOME RELIEF.
Myth: People have to be in the hospital to get their pain relieved.
REALITY: PAIN CAN BE MANAGED EFFECTIVELY AT HOME WITH ORAL MEDICATIONS AND OTHER THERAPIES. IF A PERSON BECOMES MORE DEPENDENT ON THESE, HOSPICE OR HOME CARE NURSES CAN HELP MANAGE A PERSON’S PAIN AND TEACH THE PERSON’S FAMILY MEMBERS TO HELP.