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Describing pain and discomfort
Describing your pain or discomfort will help your health care team understand what you are feeling, work out the cause, and plan the most appropriate pain management for you. Some people find it hard to explain their pain or why they are feeling uncomfortable, but answering these questions may help you express this.
- In which parts of your body do you feel your pain?
- How bad is the pain?
- How does it compare to pain you have felt in the past?
- What does it feel like? For example, is it dull, throbbing, steady, shooting, stabbing or burning?
- Are there any pins and needles or tingling? Is there pain in areas where it feels numb or not quite normal?
- Does your pain spread from one area to another (radiate)?
- When did the pain or discomfort begin?
- Is your pain constant? If not, how often does it occur?
- How long does the pain last each time it occurs?
- Which of your daily activities does it prevent you from doing?
- What activities do you think you could do or would like to do if the pain wasn't there?
- How does the pain make you feel emotionally?
- What relieves your pain and what makes it worse?
- What pain-killers have you tried? What helped or didn't help?
- Did you have any side effects from the medication?
- What have you done in the past to relieve other types of pain?
- Is there anything you are worried about with respect to the pain?
How bad is the pain?
Some people find that rating their pain using a scale can help them describe their pain. There are different kinds of scales:
- word scale - this rates the pain from none or mild through to moderate and severe
- facial -this is the use of facial expressions to show how the pain makes you feel
- number scale - this is from 1-10, with the higher the number, the worse the pain
- activity tolerance - this scale includes statements about how the pain affects your activities
Keeping a record of your pain, what you have tried for relief and its effectiveness can be helpful for you and those caring for you to understand more about your pain and how it can be managed. You might like to write details in a table like the one below, jot details in a notebook, or use the Cancer Care Diary, available for free from the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
This example is for someone on regular doses 30-mg doses of morphine. The patient is also taking 10-mg doses of morphine, as needed, for breakthrough pain and records this in their diary.
|Day||Time||Pain level||Pain relief (dose)||Pain level one hour later||Comments e.g. bowel action or side effects|
|Mon||8am||4||10 mg||2||Slight nausea, took anti-nausea tablet.|
|Tue||7pm||2||Pain control good all day, bowels open.|
|Thu||6pm||5||10 mg||3||Bowels not open 2 days, took 2 coloxyl with senna.|
|Sat||4am||6||10 mg||2 (at 7 am)||Got hot water bottle and went back to sleep.|
|Sun||3pm||7||10 mg||3||Mowed lawn in morning.|