Pain medicine works better when the pain first starts, before it gets
too bad. A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump lets you give yourself
intravenous (IV) pain medicine when you need it. There
is no need to wait for a nurse to give you another shot. This gives you more
control of your pain relief.
The PCA pump contains your pain medicine. Usually that medicine is
morphine, but other painkilling drugs are sometimes used. The pump is connected
through a tube to a vein in your body. You press a button when you feel pain
and the pump gives you a dose of medicine set by your doctor. You cannot give
yourself too much medicine, because the pump will be set to prevent that.
As recently as 20 years ago, people with chronic pain were too often dismissively
told that their problem was "in their heads" or that they were
hypochondriacs. But in the last decade, a handful of dedicated researchers
learned that chronic pain is not simply a symptom of something else -- such as
anxiety, depression, or a need for
attention -- but a disease in its own right, one that can alter a person's
emotional, professional, and family life in profound and debilitating ways.
PCA pumps are most often used in the hospital after surgery. The pump
allows you to give yourself pain medicine after you wake up and as you recover
from your operation. The pumps also are used by people who have very bad cancer
pain. These pumps can often be used at home.
Some pumps are set to give you a small, constant flow of medicine.
When you feel pain or are uncomfortable, you can press the button and receive
an extra bit of medicine. Other pumps give you a set dose of your medicine only
when you push the button.
PCA pumps not only control pain but also have other benefits.
People feel less anxious and depressed. They are not as sleepy, because they
use less medicine. Often they are able to move around more. And they feel a
greater sense of control over their own pain management.
A PCA pump works well to control pain, because you can give yourself
medicine before the pain gets too bad. Being in control of your pain relief
also helps you relax and deal with the pain better.