At Yale New Haven Hospital, we are committed to providing patients effective pain management solutions. Pain is a common medical problem that requires urgent attention. Extreme pain is not normal and may be largely relieved with medication. You should never be embarrassed or afraid to talk with your healthcare providers and caregivers about pain control.
The Benefits of Effective Pain Management
Pain is not just "all in your head." It is an all-too-real physiological phenomenon. Many patients assume they have no choice but to tolerate the pain caused by their medical problems. However, most pain can be greatly relieved or eased with proper pain management.
When pain is managed well, many patients can return to the things they enjoyed before their illness or surgery more quickly and minimize the risk of developing chronic debilitating pain. Unfortunately, some patients may avoid effective pain relief because they have mistaken beliefs about pain control or are concerned about becoming addicted. When pain medicines are taken for pain and not for pleasure, there is little risk of developing addiction. Administering inadequate doses for fear of an addiction is not sound practice and can actually lead to problems down the road.
Our Pain Management Services
At YNHH, we have a highly trained, dedicated post-surgical pain management team to specifically respond to adult patients who have undergone an operation. Safe, effective pain relief options for additional medical conditions are also available. Your nurses and doctors can even address pain-related issues after you are discharged from the hospital. Here are some of the ways we can help you manage pain during or after your stay:
- Prescribing and administering the proper pain medications according to your needs and preferences
- Applying anesthetic (numbing) creams and gels to the skin prior to puncturing procedures (such as spinal taps, intravenous catheter placement and vaccinations)
- Offering non-medical approaches shown to be beneficial for some patients including deep breathing, stretching, relaxation techniques and ice massage
Common Pain Medications
For mild pain, non-narcotic pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used. For moderate pain, weak narcotic pain medications (analgesics) like codeine are used. For severe pain, strong narcotics like morphine may be needed.
Pain medications can be delivered by mouth, by intravenous catheter, through the skin or through special catheters placed in the epidural space or limb to treat an isolated area.
What You Can Do
Patients play an important role in effective pain management. Here are some of the things you can do to help:
- Work closely with your doctors and nurses to design the best pain management plan.
- If possible, make sure you tell your nurses and doctors ahead of time about your pain management concerns, needs and preferences.
- Anxiety increases perceptions of pain, making it feel worse. Treating anxiety is often as important as treating pain itself. Discuss your anxiety with your caregivers.
- If you are having surgery, ask your surgeon about his or her plans to control pain after your procedure, including what medications you will receive before the operation to minimize pain later and what will be available for pain relief afterwards.
- Always tell your nurse if you are allergic to medications, or have concerns or questions about your medications. If you have allergies, you should be given a red allergy bracelet to wear to alert your patient care team.
Quality and Safety - Reducing Errors
- Describe what your pain feels like. Use specific words like sharp, stabbing, dull, aching, burning, tingling, throbbing, deep, pressing, etc.
- Describe what makes your pain better or worse. Is the pain always there or does it go away sometimes? Does the pain get worse when you move in certain ways?
- Tell your nurse or doctor when the pain medication is not working.
- Ask your nurse about available non-medical pain management options.
It's OK to Be Assertive
You should discuss your concerns, fears and expectations about pain management with your physicians and nurses before, during and after medical treatment. If you are in pain, speak up. Ask a doctor or nurse for help. If you do not get help right away, ask again. If you still do not get help, ask to speak to a patient advocate or representative. Remember, you have the right to effective pain care without delay.