Common side effects and pain relief

People with terminal illnesses often experience pain. Each person experiences pain differently and responds to it in a different way. You can take many different medicines to manage your pain. You can also manage your pain without using drugs. Your team, including your doctors, nurses, and other members, will help you manage your pain.

Pain management

Pain is often perceived as a sensation that occurs when your body has been damaged. We also know that many factors can make the pain worse. Feelings such as anxiety, stress, fatigue, or loneliness can all contribute to pain.

The majority of pain can be controlled with medication. It’s rare that someone has pain they can’t control. We know it’s easier for you to manage your pain if you also feel that you have the emotional, psychological, and spiritual support you need.

It may be helpful to speak to a professional. It could be:

  • Counselor
  • Psychotherapist
  • Spiritual adviser or faith leader
  • Pain assessment

To determine the best treatment, your doctor or palliative team must assess your pain. You will be asked some questions, and a physical exam may also be performed. They may need to order tests to determine what’s causing your pain. A blood test may be done to determine the best type of medicine for you.

Pain medicines

Many different medications are available to treat pain. There are different medicines for treating pain.

You may need to try several different medicines before you find one that works for you. Inform your doctor or nurse if your pain becomes worse or if it feels different. You can ask them to increase your dosage or try a different medicine.

A combination of pain medications may be the best option for you. Simple painkillers are often taken with opioids. It may be that you find it best to take medicine and use non-drug treatments.

Take pain medication only when necessary.

Some people believe they should wait for the pain to be really bad before taking painkillers. Even if you are not feeling pain, it is best to take your painkillers at the prescribed frequency. This will help control the pain between doses.

Names of drugs

Many drugs have multiple names. The generic name of the drug appears first in the table, followed by some common trade names. Ibuprofen, for example, is the generic name. Nurofen (r)  and Brufen (r)  are trade names. It is the same medicine with different names.

Other Treatments

There are alternatives to medication if you cannot control your pain. Palliative doctors and anesthetists work together. These doctors are specialists in pain management. You might be able to get a spinal block from an anesthetist.

Injections of pain medicine, steroids, or local anesthetics (numbing medicines) into your nerves are called nerve blocks. The nerves are prevented from sending pain signals to the brain. You will not feel any pain in this area.

Spinal therapy involves the injection of medicines into the spinal fluid. This stops the pain signals from traveling to your brain through your spinal cord.

These treatments are typically provided by nurses and doctors who are specialists in the hospital.

Side effects

All medicines may cause side effects. They are side effects that a drug can have but is not intended to cause. You may have one, two, or no side effects. In the table above, we have listed some common side effects of each medicine. Other side effects can also occur. You can ask your pharmacist or doctor about the specific side effects of your medicine.

Speak to your doctor if you experience side effects. Do not stop taking your medicine suddenly or alter the dosage without consulting with them. You may be able to get them to help you manage side effects, change your dose, or try different medications.

Common concerns about opioids

Many people are afraid of taking morphine and other opioids.

Some people are afraid that morphine will make them die faster. This is false. When prescribed and taken properly, morphine and other opioids can be very effective and safe. The use of morphine and other powerful painkillers is not limited to a short period of time.

Some people believe that receiving opioids is a sign of imminent death. It is not the case. It is not true. Opioids are given to those who are not terminally ill, but they are also used to manage pain in people nearing the end of life.

Your friends or family may also worry about addiction if you use a syringe or take other powerful painkillers. It’s not something you should be worried about. It is rare that people who need pain relief due to terminal illness become addicted to opioids.

Speak to your doctor or nurse if you are concerned about any of the above. You can ask them what medications are suitable for you, and they will answer all your questions.

Information for family and friends

You can help a friend or family member with a terminal disease in many ways. This includes helping them get medication. Find out more about how to assist someone with their medication.

You can also help them manage their pain by giving them other methods. When people feel supported and relaxed, they often experience less pain. When they are busy with meaningful activities, they can be distracted from their pain.

Help them feel more comfortable:

  • Spending time with them
  • Listening to their concerns
  • Helping them talk about their feelings
  • Playing music or reading aloud to them can help them relax.
  • Helping them to do their favorite activities, such as reading or visiting friends.

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