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Palliative Medicine

Palliative & Support Medicine

Pain Management Myths

Many individuals with pain associated with a life-limiting illness are afraid to consider opioid analgesic medications (pain medicines). When used correctly, they can often improve the patient’s quality of life while restoring them to a more functional existence. Here are a few misconceptions that interfere with optimum treatment plans for patients in need of palliative care:

Myth: Patients using opioids frequently become addicted to them.

Fact: When used to control chronic cancer-related pain or pain associated with life- limiting illness, the incidence of addiction is very low. The therapeutic goal of pain control for patients with chronic pain without life-limiting illness is to improve function by relieving the pain.

Myth: I cannot work or do normal activities when taking pain medications.

Fact: Patients with severe pain have great difficulty performing normal activities, including maintaining normal relationships. Thinking and motor skills often are normal for patients using chronic opioids to control their pain. The goal of pain management should be to control the pain so the patient can become more functional.

Myth: Opioids should be “saved” for the last weeks or months of life.

Fact: Patients with moderate to severe pain can often be treated with opioids for long periods of time to maintain their function. Patients are often afraid that they will become resistant to the pain-sparing effect of opioids if they use them too early. This is not typical and, often, the dose of the opioid will just have to be slowly increased to relieve the pain.