Medication can have a role in the management of long term pain. It is only one piece of the Pain Self Management jigsaw though. We no longer keep adding "stronger painkillers to get rid of the pain”.
We now understand that medication for long term pain may only help some people. You need to know that pain medication will not get rid of your pain. The term ‘painkillers’ is wrong in long term pain.
People respond differently to different medications. Some people it will help a lot and some people a little. It may not help others. There is no way to know before taking it.
It is important that any new medication is started as a trial. There should be a planned appointment to check how well it is working. Understanding that a reduction of 20-30% in pain is a good outcome may be useful. This is a more realistic expectation.
The review will also check if it is causing any problems e.g side effects. It can take time to find the right medication. Pain can change over time. This means your medication needs to be regularly reviewed to see if it is still helpful. Your medication will be reviewed when you are in the pain service.
For some it might be hard to find any medication that is helpful or it may cause too many side effects. This does not mean that your pain cannot be improved by other pieces of the Pain Self Management jigsaw such as applying pacing and keeping active.
With some pain medications there are risks of dependence and withdrawal problems. You should be informed of any risks when starting the medication. Your regular review will check the medication is still appropriate and you will be offered appropriate support if needed.
The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) have created a useful website with further information RCoA Opioids Aware website.