Who can help you manage your pain?

Different healthcare professionals may help to manage your pain. You’ll see some of them in the hospital and others at home or in the community. They include:

  • GPs, who can monitor your pain and suggest treatments
  • district nurses, who can help you with medicines and manage your pain at home
  • physiotherapists, who can help make moving less painful
  • occupational therapists, who can suggest ways to make you more comfortable
  • counsellors or psychologists, who can help you with feelings that may affect pain
  • pharmacists, who can give advice about painkillers
  • specialist palliative care teams, made up of professionals who are experts in managing pain
  • hospice staff, who can treat your pain when you are in a hospice
  • Marie Curies nurses, who help people with advanced cancer to stay at home
  • pain teams, which are based in hospitals and made up of pain experts
  • anaesthetists, some of whom are pain relief experts
  • cancer specialists, who will look at the cause of your pain.

If your pain makes it difficult to do everyday things, there are organisations that can offer help.

Help when you have pain

Various health and social care professionals may be involved in managing your pain. If you need support or extra help doing everyday things because of your pain, there are organisations that may be able to offer this.

It’s important that you and your family know who is supervising your pain control and who you should contact if you have pain or other symptoms. While you are at home, your GP will usually be your first point of contact. If you are in hospital, you should talk to the nurses or your cancer doctor. If you are unsure who you should contact, ask your GP.


GP

When you are at home, your GP can tell you about medicines or other treatments you may need to control your pain. They can monitor you regularly to see what has helped. Your GP can arrange for a district nurse to visit (see below). They can also refer you to a specialist palliative care team or other people who can help you.


District Nurse

A district nurse can visit you at home to help you manage your pain. They can make sure your pain relief is working and help you with your medicines. They can contact the GP to renew prescriptions and give you advice about pain treatments.


Physiotherapist

Not everyone needs to see a physiotherapist, but they can be very helpful in some situations. They may be able to show you different ways of moving so that your pain doesn’t feel worse. If pain is affecting how far you can walk, a physiotherapist can suggest ways to make getting around easier. For example, they can arrange for you to have a wheelchair.


Occupational therapist

An occupational therapist may be able to sort out equipment to make you more comfortable. For example, special cushions or mattresses for when you are sitting or lying down. They can arrange handrails and ramps for your home to help you move around more easily. They can also suggest ways to help improve your energy and be more active.


Counsellor or psychologist

Some people find it helpful to see a counsellor or psychologist. This is a person trained to help you manage your emotions. They can help you think about other things that may be causing you pain, or making it worse. They can help you find ways of coping with the pain and dealing with any worries or emotions that may be making your pain worse.


Pharmacist

A pharmacist will know about any medicines you have been prescribed. They can check your prescription, give you advice about your medicines and explain how they may affect you. Tell your pharmacist if you are buying any over-the-counter medicines. They can tell you whether it is safe to take them with your prescribed painkillers.


Specialist palliative care team

Specialist palliative care doctors and nurses are experts in helping people who are in pain. They can help you to manage other symptoms of cancer. They also provide emotional support.

The palliative care team may also include a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a counsellor. Some teams also have a psychologist. Specialist palliative care teams are found in hospitals, hospices and the community.

Hospital teams can help you with your pain control if you’re going to an outpatient clinic or if you’re an inpatient. They will make sure your GP knows what is happening. They can also refer you to a community palliative care team to provide ongoing support when you are at home.

Community palliative care teams are usually based in hospices. Community specialist palliative care nurses will work closely with your GP, district nurse and other hospital services. They will tell you more about their services, how to contact them and when they are available.


Hospices

Sometimes it can help to spend a short period of time, often one to two weeks, in a hospice having your pain, symptoms and other problems treated. Your community specialist palliative care team or GP can arrange this for you.

In the hospice, the doctors and nurses can often adjust the dose of painkillers, or give you new ones, more quickly than if you were at home. Once your pain is controlled, you can go home again. At home, your GP and community specialist palliative care team can continue to help you. Your GP will know about community palliative care and hospice services in your area.


Marie Curie nurses

Marie Curie nurses help people with advanced cancer to stay in their own homes. They can help manage symptoms, including pain. They will stay in your home for a period of time overnight. Marie Curie nurses aren’t available in all areas. Your district nurse or specialist palliative care team will be able to give you more information about Marie Curie nurses in your area.

Not everyone who has cancer pain has advanced cancer. But if your cancer is advanced, we have a video about pain control.

Managing pain during advanced cancer

Oncologist Sarah Slater explains how painkillers help people with advanced cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Managing pain during advanced cancer

Oncologist Sarah Slater explains how painkillers help people with advanced cancer.

About our cancer information videos


Pain team

Many hospitals have specialist pain teams. The team will include doctors and nurses and usually an anaesthetist. Some teams also have a psychologist.

Your GP or specialist palliative care team can refer you to a pain team. This is very useful if your pain is difficult to control or you need a nerve block.


Anaesthetists

Anaesthetists give drugs during and after operations.

Some are also experts in pain relief and can help treat cancer pain. They may be part of a pain team. They can give you specialist treatments, such as a nerve block.


Cancer specialist

It is important to discuss your pain with your cancer specialist (oncologist) to ensure that the cause of the pain is diagnosed correctly. In some cases this may lead to a change in the way in which your cancer is treated.


Practical support

If your pain means you have trouble moving around, you may need extra help doing everyday things. There are lots of charities and community organisations that may be able to offer you help and support.

The British Red Cross has volunteers who can help you with things like shopping, posting letters, changing library books or even taking you to a hospital appointment. They can also lend equipment like wheelchairs and commodes (portable toilets).

The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) and Scope give information and advice to disabled people. The DLF also has specialist advisers and occupational therapists who can give advice on aids and specialist equipment.

Some areas have schemes to help people with things like shopping, befriending or offering transport. These are called good neighbour schemes and are usually run by social services or local community organisations. Some are only available to people living alone. Look for ‘council for voluntary service’ or ‘good neighbour schemes‘ in the phone book or online.