No one wants to be in pain. Pain can be debilitating and it can prevent us from enjoying our lives. Controlling pain often requires a multidisciplinary approach. The approach can include medication, guided imagery, meditation and other therapies.
The definition of pain by the International Association for the Study of Pain is, “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.” Pain experience is individual and unique to the person experiencing the pain.
This week we saw a mesothelioma patient who was recovering from surgery, but did not want to take any pain medications once he left the hospital. The reasons for pain medications are multi-faceted. They can help reduce the chances of pneumonia, that can be a result of not being able to take a deep enough breath. They can help prevent blood clots that form when patients cannot move around enough to prevent blood clots. Pain medication can help a patient sleep better. Poorly managed pain can lead to complications and a longer rehab.
Why didn’t our patient want to take the pain medication? He wanted to get better, he wanted to walk, he wanted to sleep at night, he wanted to go home. What he didn’t want was to become addicted to pain medication. He had heard that is where some people start on the road to addiction and he was not going down that road. A study published in JAMA in 2016, can help quell those fears. According to the researchers, just “0.4% of patients continue to receive prescriptions for opiates at one year.” Previous studies report only about 3% still taking opioids after three months.
Generalizations do not work when managing pain. Like mesothelioma, every person’s disease is different, everyone’s reaction to pain medication, how it works for them, whether they need more or less, is something that should be individualized between the patient and his doctor. The control of pain and it’s side effects, will make for a better recovery, less complications, and get you back to your life.
It is important to discuss your concerns with your care team. Communication with your team about your pain and whether it is improving , changing, or increasing will help your recovery, and improve your patient experience. One size does not fit all! Discuss with your team your concerns and fears- it will lead to a better experience.