Handbook for Mortals : Controlling Pain

You, like many people, may be especially afraid of being in terrible pain at the end of your life. You - and the people caring for you - should know that even severe pain can be brought under control. However, to do this, you may need to rethink some of your ideas about pain and pain medication.

Pain can almost always be managed well enough so you can be comfortable and life can be meaningful. If pain gets to be overwhelming, usually it is because available treatments are not being used well.

Some people hesitate to take medications because they fear becoming dependent on - or even addicted to - pain relievers. Others are worried that, if they take medicine "too soon" in the course of their illness, then there will be no medication strong enough later if the pain gets really bad. And still others are afraid that side effects will interfere with their thinking, concentration, or energy level. The fact is, good pain management can usually control your pain throughout the course of your illness without lots of side effects, without addiction, and without keeping you too tired to enjoy the things you want to do.

The effects of pain
Types of pain
Types of pain: Duration of pain
Types of pain: Cause or location of pain
Types of pain : Pattern of pain
Types of pain : Severity of pain
Choosing the right pain medicine
Different ways to take pain medicine
Doses of pain medicine
How often to take pain medicine
A few rules about pain management
Fear of addiction
Side effects of pain medications
Relieving pain in other ways


The content for this "Controlling Pain" tutorial is drawn from Chapter 7 of the print version of the Handbook for Mortals.
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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