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Palliative Care Center

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Topic Overview

Physical pain continued...

In some cases, medicines can be given so you can get more medicine when you need it. This is called patient-controlled anesthesia, or PCA.

Many people who have pain caused by a life-limiting illness are concerned about becoming addicted to pain medicines. Addiction usually is not an issue in people with a terminal illness. If your pain or illness improves, your doctor will slowly lower the amount you are getting until your body no longer needs the medicine.

It is possible to use pain medicines to effectively manage your pain and keep it at a level that you find tolerable. But it may not be possible to completely relieve your pain without making you sleepy. You might choose to have a certain amount of pain in order to be fully awake and alert. On the other hand, wakefulness may not be important to you and you may not be bothered by the sleepiness that accompanies some pain medicines.

The key to effective pain management is to take your pain medicine on a routine schedule, not "as needed." But even with a routine schedule of pain medicine, there may be times when you have pain that is worse than normal. This is called "breakthrough pain." Talk with your doctor about medicines you should have on hand to be prepared for breakthrough pain. And always talk to your doctor before going off your pain medicine. Suddenly stopping pain medicine may cause serious side effects and severe pain.

Talk to your doctor about methods of pain control without medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies may provide pain relief and relaxation for some people. You may be able to complement conventional medical treatment with one of these therapies:

Before you try a complementary therapy, talk to your doctor about the possible value and potential side effects. Let your doctor know if you are already using any such therapies. Complementary therapies are not meant to take the place of standard medical treatment. But they may help ease symptoms and pain and improve your quality of life.

For more information about pain management, see the topic Chronic Pain.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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