Handbook for Mortals : Controlling Pain : Types of pain

The Read this to me only way your doctors will know about your pain is if you tell them. How you describe your pain will guide your doctorsí plans to relieve your pain. Understanding and using these descriptions may help you get the relief you need more quickly. There are different types of pain, and you may experience none, one, or several of them depending on the diseases you have.

To choose the best treatment for pain, doctors usually classify pain according to duration, cause or location, pattern, and severity.

Questions your doctor will ask about your pain

When you talk to your doctor about your pain, be prepared to answer these questions about new pain and changes in your pain, too. You might want to make notes before you see your doctor so that you don't forget to mention something important.

  • Where is the pain?
  • What does it feel like? (Describe the pain - is it throbbing, aching, burning?)
  • On a scale of zero to ten, with zero being no pain and ten being overwhelming pain, how bad is your pain now?
  • When do you get this pain?
  • What makes the pain better?
  • What makes the pain worse?
  • What does the pain mean? How is it affecting other parts of your life?
  • Are you taking other medications for the pain, such as Tylenol®?

Words for Pain

  • Sharp
  • Aching
  • Throbbing
  • Pressure
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Stabbing

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Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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