Pain Management:
Frequently Asked Questions

Last Editorial Review: 2/3/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

1) Should I take pain medication only when I have a lot of pain?

No. Don't wait until pain becomes severe to take pain medication. Pain is easier to control when it is mild. You should take your pain medication regularly, just as prescribed. Sometimes this means taking medicine on a regular schedule.

2) Will I become addicted to narcotic pain medications?

Not necessarily, if you take your medication exactly as prescribed. A persons likelihood of becoming addicted depends on his or her addiction history. Addiction is less likely if you have never had an addictive disorder. Ask your doctor about any concerns you may have.

3) Why do I need to keep taking more of my medicine to have the same effect?

This situation occurs when you have developed tolerance to a drug. Tolerance is a normal physiological response to narcotics and occurs when the initial dose of a substance loses its effectiveness over time. Changing the dose or the medication often solves the problem. Just because you have become tolerant to a drug does not mean that you are addicted to that drug.

4) Should I tell my medical provider that I am having pain?

Yes. Your provider needs to assess your pain, so it is very important for your health care team to know if you are in pain.

5) Some days my acute pain is much worse. What can I do?

You might notice at times that you are in more pain than usual (such as at the end of a tiring day or as a result of certain activities). If you notice that certain activities contribute to your pain, or that you feel worse at certain times of the day, medication can be taken prior to the activity (or time of day) to help prevent the pain from occurring. Always be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

6) How can I tell my doctor how much pain I am in?

The best way is to describe your pain as clearly and in as much detail as you possibly can. Most doctors and nurses ask you to describe your level of pain on a scale.

7) What can my friends and family do to help?

Friends and family can benefit you by helping you to live as normally and independently as possible.

8) Do I have to suffer with chronic pain for the rest of my life?

Not necessarily. With proper treatment, people can live full, normal lives after having experienced chronic pain.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Center Department of Psychiatry and Psychology.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, June 2004.

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