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Pain is one of the most common symptoms in palliative care. Pain can also be a much feared symptom which can contribute to its intensity. The aim of palliative care is to allow patients to be pain free or for their pain to be sufficiently controlled so that it does not interfere with their ability to function or detract from their quality of life.

Good pain control requires:

  • accurate and detailed assessment, and reassessment, of each pain
  • knowledge of the different types of pains
  • a different therapeutic approach to chronic pain
  • knowledge of which treatment modalities to use
  • knowledge of the actions, adverse effects and pharmacology of analgesics
  • multidisciplinary assessment and treatment of other aspects of suffering that may aggravate pain – physical, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual distress.

The use of medication for the treatment of acute pain is the same as for non-palliative care patients. The treatment of chronic pain, that is often poorly managed, requires a different approach to acute pain.

In palliative care:

  • the analgesic program should be kept simple, even for patients in severe pain
  • oral medication is the mainstay of treatment and should only be abandoned if the patient is unable to take or retain oral preparations.

There is a myriad of pain medications available as they treat different types of pain.

Useful Resources

  • Managing breakthrough and episodic pain

    This podcast addresses the assessment and treatment of breakthrough and episodic pain and the management of different types of pain.

    Dr Peter Martin is Clinical Director of Palliative Care for Barwon Health and Associate Professor at Deakin University.

    Play Podcast

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