Your health care professional (eg your doctor or nurse) can advise you how to keep pain levels as low as possible. Describing your pain in detail will help them manage your pain.

Pain can be:

  • acute (coming on quickly and lasting for a short time)
  • chronic (on and off, lasting for months or years)
  • incident (only coming on during an activity).
Pain can also be felt in different ways, such as aching, burning or throbbing. The more you can tell the health care professional about your pain and what makes it better or worse, the more likely it is that they can help manage your pain well.

Ways to relieve pain may include changing your position, having someone give you a gentle massage, or using hot packs (but not if you have a problem with feeling heat or cannot easily move the pack if it causes discomfort). You can also try distracting yourself, such as by watching television or reading a book.

A doctor can prescribe medications or recommend suitable over-the-counter medicines (available without prescription) to manage pain. Medications might be in the form of tablets, liquids, injections, suppositories or skin patches. It is usually best to use these regularly if the pain is chronic, as explained by your doctor or pharmacist.

If the pain is still there even when you have used regular pain medication, tell your doctor, who can organise extra medication for you. If you need strong pain relief, or if you find it difficult to swallow, your health care professional may suggest a syringe driver. This is a small machine that injects the medication at a controlled rate over time so that the correct amount is given.

Practical tip

Keep a pain diary — you or your carer can write down when pain occurs, describe the pain, list treatment that is used and how well this works. Showing this to your health care professional will help them to treat your pain.