Describing your pain will help your health care team understand what you are feeling, work out the cause of the pain, and plan the most appropriate way to treat it.
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Thinking about these questions may help you describe your pain.
- In which parts of your body do you feel pain or discomfort?
- 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, constant, shooting, stabbing or burning? Are there any pins and needles or tingling? Are there areas where it feels numb?
- 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? (Try timing the pain.)
- Do you have any flare-ups of pain?
- Which of your daily activities does it prevent you from doing? (Examples include: getting up, dressing, bending down, walking, sitting for long periods, exercising, carrying things, driving.)
- What activities do you think you could do or would like to do if the pain improves?
- How does the pain make you feel emotionally?
- What relieves your pain? What makes it worse?
- What pain relief methods have you tried? What helped or didn’t help?
- Did you have any side effects from pain medicines?
- 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?
This information has been developed by Cancer Council NSW on behalf of all other state and territory Cancer Councils as part of a National Cancer Information Working Group initiative. We thank the reviewers of this information: Dr Tim Hucker, Clinical Lead, Pain Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Lecturer, Monash University, VIC; Carole Arbuckle, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA, and President Elect, The Australian Pain Society; Kathryn Collins, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof Roger Goucke, Head, Department of Pain Management, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Director, WA Statewide Pain Service, and Clinical A/Prof, The University of Western Australia, WA; Chris Hayward, Consumer; Prof Melanie Lovell, Senior Staff Specialist, Palliative Care, HammondCare Centre for Learning and Research, Clinical A/Prof, Sydney Medical School, and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Linda Magann, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care and Peritonectomy Palliative Care, St George Hospital, NSW; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD.
Thank you to the Australian Adult Cancer Pain Management Guideline Working Party, Improving Palliative Care through Clinical Trials (ImPaCCT), and the Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care (University of Technology Sydney), whose work contributed to the development of the previous editions of this booklet. Thank you also to the original writers, Dr Melanie Lovell and Prof Frances Boyle AM.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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