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Dealing with Uncontrolled Pain 

During my tenure, I’ve encountered instances where unconscious patients later recollected the painful procedures they underwent. After regaining consciousness, they share accounts of the painful experiences they underwent because their pain wasn’t managed. Witnessing their tears shed light on a realization—how we, as healthcare professionals, may gradually lose touch with compassion. The hospital, our workplace, can inadvertently transform into a secondary home, leading us to assume that patients perceive it similarly. 

Reflecting on my personal history, the recollection of an unpleasant dental experience during my initial visit as a child significantly influenced my attitude toward dental health. Regrettably, the subconscious retention of that distressing event led to neglecting my dental care, resulting in substantial expenses and efforts to rectify the consequences later in life. Just as children become afraid of dentists, if we as healthcare professionals don’t treat patients’ pains, they inadvertently start fearing the hospital setting and develop phobias. 

Such memories are universal, and as we transition into healthcare professions, our lives become intertwined with alleviating suffering. However, this immersion in suffering may inadvertently desensitize us over time. Consequently, these experiences underline the critical significance of prioritizing pain management in our professional settings. As healthcare practitioners, we are entrusted not only with the task of curing ailments but also with the moral obligation to alleviate the suffering of our patients. This responsibility remains unwavering, even in scenarios where a complete cure might not be attainable. It calls for a renewed commitment to prioritize and diligently address the pain and distress experienced by those under our care. 

Effective Pain Management Benefits: 

Physically, effective pain management is essential for enabling individuals to engage in their daily activities, enhancing their mobility, and contributing to their ability to rest and sleep. It plays a significant role in the healing process after surgeries, injuries, or in the context of chronic illnesses. By controlling pain, the body can redirect its energy toward the recovery process, potentially speeding up healing and reducing complications. 

However, the effects of pain have far-reaching consequences. Unmanaged pain can deeply affect a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. Chronic pain often leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Conversely, effectively managed pain can significantly reduce psychological distress, improving the emotional state and fostering a more positive outlook for patients. Socially, pain can be isolating, restricting individuals from participating in social interactions and activities they once enjoyed. Effective pain management allows patients to engage more fully in their social circles, reducing feelings of isolation and improving their quality of life. It supports mental stimulation and emotional support, which are vital for a patient’s overall well-being. 

Tips for Patients in Dealing with Pain: 

Physical Pain Management Tips: 

Medication Management:  

Work closely with healthcare professionals to create a tailored medication plan. Adhere strictly to prescribed dosages and schedules. 

Non-Pharmacological Techniques:  

Explore non-drug methods such as physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, or massage therapy. These can complement medications and provide additional relief. 

Physical Exercise and Movement:  

Engage in exercises suitable for your condition. Physical activity releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and helps improve mobility and mood. 

Heat and Cold Therapy:  

Utilize heating pads or ice packs to alleviate localized pain. Heat can relax muscles, while cold reduces inflammation and numbs painful areas. 

Mental and Emotional Pain Management Tips: 

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:  

Practice mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation to alleviate stress and reduce the perception of pain. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):  

Seek counseling or therapy to address the emotional impact of pain. CBT helps reframe negative thoughts and behaviors related to pain. 

Emotional Support Networks:  

Build a support system by connecting with friends, family, or support groups. Sharing experiences can alleviate emotional distress and provide valuable coping strategies. 

Maintain Mental Stimulation:  

Engage in activities that stimulate the mind, such as hobbies, puzzles, or creative endeavors. Distraction can alleviate the focus on pain. 

Comprehensive Pain Management: 

Healthy Lifestyle Choices:  

Focus on a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and the reduction of stress to manage pain more effectively. 

Open Communication:  

Discuss pain with healthcare providers openly and honestly. Describe the type, intensity, and location of pain to ensure a personalized treatment plan. 

End-of-Life Planning:  

In cases of chronic or terminal illnesses, consider end-of-life planning. Document preferences and advance directives to ensure comfort and dignity in the future. 

Personalized Approaches:  

Recognize that pain management is highly individual. Experiment with various strategies to find what works best for your unique situation. 

Tips for Caregivers: 

 Active Communication: 

Pay close attention to verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate pain. Patients may express discomfort through words, facial expressions, or changes in behavior. 

Create an environment where patients feel comfortable discussing their pain. Ask about the location, intensity, and nature of pain and assist in developing an appropriate care plan. 

Compassionate Assistance: 

Help patients with daily tasks while being attentive to their pain levels. Assist them with movements or activities in a manner that minimizes discomfort. Also, offer comfort, reassurance, and a sympathetic ear. Sometimes, just being present and listening can alleviate the emotional distress associated with pain. 

Medication Management: 

Ensure patients adhere to prescribed medication schedules. Record and monitor dosage times to avoid missing doses. However, be vigilant for any adverse effects of medications and report these promptly. 

Holistic Approaches: 

Introduce non-drug approaches to complement pain management, such as massage, music therapy, or relaxation exercises. Pay attention to physical comfort by ensuring proper positioning in beds or chairs, providing supportive pillows, or adjusting room temperature to alleviate discomfort. 

Collaborate with Healthcare Professionals: 

Collaborate closely with healthcare providers and work as a team to understand the patient’s pain management plan. Be an advocate for the patient in discussions with the medical team. If something stirs you, don’t be afraid to ask questions: seek clarity about the treatment plan, the purpose of medications, and potential side effects. A better understanding will help in providing more effective care. 

Self-Care for Caregivers: 

I have always reiterated the fact that caregiving can be emotionally and physically taxing. So, seek support for yourself through support groups, counseling, or respite care to prevent burnout and ensure you take breaks and manage your own well-being. Caring for yourself enables you to provide better care for the patient. 

End-of-Life Support: 

You must understand your limitations and understand and respect the patient’s end-of-life wishes regarding pain management. Work with the healthcare team to ensure these preferences are honored. Offer them a calm and supportive environment to discuss fears, concerns, and any distress the patient might experience. 

Final Note: 

I believe that as doctors, we become so used to seeing patients in pain that we develop a high subjective threshold in perceiving patients’ pain, which can be, at times, damaging to not only the patient’s physical health but also puts a toll on their mental health as well. As healthcare professionals, addressing uncontrolled pain is our profound duty in hospice care, especially where compassion and comfort are paramount. We should do our best to alleviate suffering and provide solace in the face of life’s most formidable trials. With empathy and unwavering support, we can make the difficult path of uncontrolled pain more bearable, offering peace and dignity to those in need until the very end.  

Part of the purpose of hospice’s existence is to ease pain and suffering. By allowing patients to feel better, we improve quality of life and in essence can directly prolong life. If you or a loved one is in pain and you are not sure what to do, please connect with us so we can help guide you through the healthcare landscape. You are not alone. You can send us an email at info@llhtx.com or connect with us directly by visiting our contact page.

I would end this article with the Oath of Maimonides, which is attributed to the 12th-century physician and philosopher. It says: 

“The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children. May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain. Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements. Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today. Oh, God, thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.” 

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