Pain is what you feel when you hurt. Pain is one of the most common and feared symptoms of cancer.  However modern medications can help control pain in most patients.  If you experience pain, talk with your doctor about the type of medication that is best for your condition.

There are two kinds of pain:

  • Acute pain is what you feel during child birth or after surgery. It goes away after a while.
  • Chronic pain is what you feel when you have arthritis, sickle cell, cancer, or another disease. The pain may stay with you for a long time.



When you have acute pain control:

  • You heal faster.
  • You feel more at ease.
  • You can walk and breathe better.


When you have chronic pain controlled:

  • You feel better.
  • You focus your energy on other things.
  • You improve your quality of life.



A pain scale is a tool that helps you, your doctor and your nurse measure your pain. By telling them a number you will help them make changes in your treatment to control your pain.

You will be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10. Zero (0) means you have no pain. Ten (10) means it is the worst pain ever. Your doctor or nurse will ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad does your pain feel?” Tell them the number that describes your pain. Use the numbers below:

0                Means no pain

1-2             Mild Pain– Means you have pain but you have to stop to think about it.                    

  • Means you notice your pain at rest and/or during your daily routine.

5-7             Moderate Pain- Means your pain distracts you but you are still able to focus on something else. You may be “gritting your teeth” when you do your normal routine.

8-9             Severe Pain- Means your pain is severe enough to have to stop what you are doing. You may feel it at rest. It is hard to think of anything else.

10              Worst Pain- Means this is the worst pain you have ever felt.



  • You can learn to control your pain. Tell your doctor and nurse when you have pain.
  • Rate your pain using a scale from 0-10.
  • Take pain medicine when you first start to feel pain. Don’t wait until it is severe!
  • Ask for you medicine before you get out of bed or go for a walk if these cause pain.
  • Medicine can be used with other methods such as music and breathing techniques to control your pain.
  • Studies show that patients who take medicine for medical reasons DO NOT become addicted. If you are concerned about this, PLEASE talk to your doctor or nurse.



  • Pill or liquid
  • Ointment or patch
  • Suppository
  • Injection into your vein



  • Oxycodone—short acting
  • Oxycontin—long acting form of Oxycodone
  • Oramorph, Roxanol (morphine)
  • MS Contin-Long acting form of morphine
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
  • Duragesic (fentanyl transdermal)
  • Percocet, Roxicet, Tylox (oxycodone/acetaminophen)
  • Tylenol #2,#3,#4, (acetaminophen and codeine)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen)



  • Sleepiness—Try planning a rest time just after you take your pain medication.
  • Constipation—Increase fluid and fiber intake and take stool softeners
  • Nausea and Vomiting—Taking your medication with food may help.  A variety of drugs can help relieve your symptoms.

*Not everyone experiences these side effects, and not every pain medication causes them to the same degree.  Talk to your doctor if you experience side effects with your pain medication.


WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO? Besides medicine, try these to ease your pain:


  • Music
  • Hold a pillow to your surgical site
  • Breathe slowly
  • Massage
  • Think or do something you like to do
  • Use heat or cold (requires a doctor’s order).




Simple breathing exercises can ease pain, such as spasms, cramping or labor. It can help when you are waiting for your pain medicine to work. To focus, say to your self, “in, two, three”. As you breath out say, ”out, two, three”. Or, each time you breathe, try saying a word such as “peace” or “relax”. Do these steps once, or repeat them for up to 20 minutes.


  1. Relax in a quiet spot.
  2. Breathe slowly and deeply.
  3. As you breathe out, feel yourself begin to relax.
  4. Think of your favorite place such as a beach or a park.
  5. Breathe in and out slowly at a rate that makes you feel relaxed.
  6. End with a slow deep breath



It’s hard to be motivated to exercise when you are in pain.  In fact, its probably the very last thing, you want to do!  However regular exercise can help you combat pain in a variety of ways:

  • Exercise prompts your body to release chemicals called endorphins that block pain signals from reaching your brain.
  • Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety and depression, conditions that can make pain more difficult to control.
  • Regular exercise can also improve your sleep and give you more energy to cope with pain.
  • Talk with your health care professional to determine whether exercise is appropriate for you.

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