Main content

    Learning About Your Health

    Pain Management

    Printer-friendly PDF of Pain ManagementOpens new window (125KB)
    (Download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat ReaderOpens new window)

    Pain Control

    Untreated pain can slow your recovery. For your own health and well being, it is important you have very good pain control.

    Good pain control allows you to:

    • Be more active

    • Get out of bed more often

    • Walk

    • Breathe easier

    • Improve your mood and sleep
    Being active helps you get better faster and prevents complications such as pneumonia, heart problems, bowel problems and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)/blood clot.

    Back to top

    Our Staff is Sensitive to Any Pain You May Experience But We Need Your Help

    • Take action to control your pain as soon as it starts. Report your pain using the FACES Pain Rating Scale below.

    • Tell your doctor and nurse when you have pain, including: how much it hurts and what it feels like; if you have had this pain before, what makes it better? worse?

    • Take your pain medication before doing something that will increase your pain (for example, one hour before physical therapy). The more comfortable you are, the more effective therapy will be.

    • Ask your doctor or nurse if you have any questions about your pain management.

    • You Need to Tell Us: Please let us know right away if you are limiting or stopping yourself from doing the activities your doctors, nurses, and therapists recommend. Report any problems with sleep, mood, constipation or appetite caused by pain. You will feel better and recover faster if you are comfortable.
    Your doctors and nurses will ask you to rate your pain using the FACES Pain Rating Scale from 0 to 10.

    "0" on the scale means no pain and "10" on the scale means the worst pain you can imagine. Reporting your pain in this way helps the doctors and nurses know how well your treatment is working.

    FACES Pain Rating Scale. Choose a number between 0 to 10 that best describes your pain. 0=No Pain (Smiling). 2=Mild (Slightly Smiling). 4=Moderate (Expressionless). 6=Severe (Slightly Frowning). 8=Very Severe (Frowning). 10=Excruciating (Crying).
    Back to top

    Pain Medication is Given in Many Ways

    • Oral: pills, liquid or lollipop

    • Intravenous (IV): through a tube in your vein

    • Intramuscular (IM): injection into a muscle

    • Nerve Block: injection that numbs an area around the arms or legs

    • Transdermal: through the skin by a stick-on patch

    • Epidural: a continuous infusion into the epidural space of the spine

    Back to top

    PCA Pump (Patient Controlled Analgesia)

    • How a PCA Pump Works: The PCA pump is a machine that connects to a tube placed in your vein. The PCA pump is set by your doctor to give you a specific dose of pain medication within a set amount of time. You simply push a button and the machine gives you the medication so that you do not have to call and wait for the nurse.

    • Only you or your nurse should push the PCA pump button, not friends or family.

    Back to top

    Other Ways to Control Pain in Addition to Medication

    The following are examples of other treatments and therapies that may relieve your pain. Speak with your doctor or nurse about using these treatments along with your pain medication.

    • Breathing and Relaxation Exercises

    • Rest

    • Massage

    • Guided Imagery

    • Warm/Cool Packs

    • Occupational Therapy

    • Physical Therapy

    • Behavioral Therapies

    • Spiritual Counseling

    Back to top

    Myths and Misconceptions About Pain

    "I'll tough it out; I don't want to bother the nurses."
    Patients who try and "tough it out" often limit their activity; this can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)/blood clot. Pain is easier to control when treated early. If you tough it out until the pain becomes severe, it will be more difficult to control and require even more pain medication.

    "I don’t like the side effects of the pain medication."
    Most side effects can be managed or your medication can be changed. We will work with you to develop a pain relief plan that will relieve as much pain as possible while trying to prevent unpleasant side effects. This can be a delicate balance and may take time.

    "I’m afraid I’ll become addicted to the pain medication."
    Research studies have shown that there is less than a 1% chance of addiction when pain medications are taken for medical reasons. If you have chronic pain and use medication for a long time, you may need to increase the dose since the old dose may not last as long. This is not addiction, it is tolerance to the effect of the medication in the cells of your body.

    "Drugs should be taken only for pain that is severe."
    It is much easier to prevent severe pain than to treat it. You can do this by taking medication on a regular schedule, rather than waiting until it is almost unbearable.

    Back to top

    Online Resources

    Note: This handout is also available in Chinese.



    Produced by the Center for Patient and Community Education in association with the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center. Last updated: 8/09

    Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale from Hockenberry MJ, Wilson D: Wong’s essentials of pediatric nursing, ed. 8, St. Louis, 2009, Mosby. Used with permission. Copyright Mosby.


    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).

    Back to top