Pain management: The process of providing medical care that alleviates or reduces pain. Mild to moderate pain can usually be treated with analgesic medications, such as aspirin. For chronic or severe pain, opiates and other narcotics may be used, sometimes in concert with analgesics; with steroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs when the pain is related to inflammation; or with antidepressants, which can potentiate some pain medications without raising the actual dose of the drug and which affect the brain's perception of pain. Narcotics carry with them the potential for side effects and addiction. However, the risk of addiction is not normally a concern in the care of terminal patients. For hospitalized patients with severe pain, devices for self-administration of narcotics are frequently used. Other procedures can also be useful in pain management programs. For bedridden patients, simply changing position regularly or using pillows to support a more comfortable posture can be effective. Massage, acupuncture, acupressure, and biofeedback have also shown some validity for increased pain control in some patients.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016