Talking about your pain and how you are feeling is very important. Some people think that they just have to accept pain, and that talking about it won’t help. But there are ways of managing pain if you tell your healthcare team about it.
Being in pain that is not properly controlled will make you miserable and affect your everyday life. If you are in pain and upset, this will also affect your family. Tell your healthcare team how you are feeling. They can help manage your pain. Feeling less or no pain will help you do the things you want to do. It will also help you stay more positive and active.
Describing your pain as well as you can will help your doctors and nurses find the best way of treating it. Here are some questions that will help you to describe your pain:
Where is the pain?
Is the pain in one part of your body, or in more than one place?
You can use diagrams like the one below to mark where your pain is. If you have more than one pain, label them 1, 2, 3,and so on (with 1 being the pain that upsets you most).
What is the pain like?
You might use words such as these to describe your pain: aching, tender, sharp, hot, burning, nagging, intense, stabbing, tingling, dull, throbbing.
Our pain diary has more words that you may find helpful to describe your pain.
How bad is your pain?
If you measured your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, what number would you rate it? (0 means no pain and 10 means the worst pain you’ve ever had.) We have included a scale in our pain diary which you may find it helpful to refer to. It also includes the diagram of the body shown above.
When are you in pain?
Are you in pain all the time? Or does it come and go? Does it get better or worse when you sit still? What happens when you move? Is it better or worse at night? Does it keep you awake or wake you up?
Does anything make the pain better or worse?
Do you feel better or worse when you’re standing, sitting or lying down? Does a heat pad or ice pack help? Is it relieved by painkillers such as paracetamol? Do the painkillers stop the pain or just reduce it, and for how long? Can you reduce the pain yourself by reading, listening to music or watching TV?
How does the pain affect your daily life?
Does it stop you from bending or stretching? Does it stop you from sitting for very long? Can you sit long enough to eat a meal? Does the pain stop you from concentrating or affect your sleep? Does it stop you from walking for short or long distances?
Don't feel that you're being a nuisance or making a fuss by talking about your pain. Your answers to these questions will help your doctor or nurse plan the best treatments for you.
It can help to keep a record of your pain. Write down how bad it is at different times of day and note anything that makes it better or worse. This information can help you talk about your pain with your doctor or nurses.
Your hospital may give you a pain chart to use. Or you can use our pain diary [PDF 486 Kb]. The pain diary includes a picture of the body so you can mark where you feel pain. And it gives examples of words that you may find helpful when describing your pain. You might want to print it out and photocopy it. Then you can use it as often as you need to. This will also allow you to see the progress you’ve made and things you’ve learned over time.