It is hard to imagine what it’s like to live with chronic, severe pain. If you’re a caregiver, or simply know someone in pain, there’s also another challenge; appearances may be deceiving. Many people who suffer from chronic pain may appear well on the outside, making it more difficult to understand the intensity of their suffering. After years as a caregiver, I offer these practical suggestions.

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While complete pain relief may not be possible, these tips may bring relief.

Learn about your condition and level of pain expected.

Discuss pain relief options and your thoughts and concerns about specific treatments with your caretakers and health care professionals.

Ask for pain relief when pain first occurs, especially at hospitals, as it takes time for medications to reach your room.

Take the medicines as prescribed. Medication should be taken at the same time each day to prevent dosage overlapping or symptoms of withdrawal.

Tell someone if your pain is not relieved. Remember, reducing one’s pain level from a 7 to a 5 is easier than reducing it from a 10 to a 7. To learn more about pain scales, ask your care provider or read PainPathways’ feature on pain scales in the winter 2012 e-edition.

Make necessary changes in your lifestyle, both physically and mentally.

Develop a pain management plan and adjust it as needed. Pain management is a process, not a one-time concern. The goal of pain management is to lessen the pain and improve functioning for enhanced quality of life.

Be a self-advocate. You are your medical team’s chief of staff. Don’t do anything you are not comfortable with, and do lots of research in advance about your condition, procedures and providers.

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