The month of September has been declared Pain Awareness Month. Pain Awareness Month is a time when various organizations like IMW work to raise public awareness of issues in the area of pain and pain management.
For people living with chronic pain, having a clear pain management plan of care can be very helpful in moments of distress. From dealing with breakthrough pain or working through an acute crisis that requires medical intervention, having an action plan can make a huge difference when communicating needs to healthcare providers who may not be familiar with your medical history. During a pain crisis, many people have trouble articulating their needs. Some may come across as medication seeking, angry, or as having an altered mental status. This may alter a treating clinician’s perception of a patient's needs when seeking emergent treatment. A written pain plan can be very useful during these situations to help healthcare providers triage the situation.
During a pain crisis, many people have trouble articulating their needs.
A pain plan should include basic identifying information (Name, Date of Birth, Address, Contact Info), name and contact information for your treating physician, an updated list of your chronic medical conditions, medication list with dosages and dispensation instructions, medication allergies, and an emergency contact (next of kin, medical proxy). For patients prescribed with controlled substances, an updated letter from your pain management physician clearly stating your medical conditions and prescribed medications can also be very helpful. It is also recommended that you discuss your pain plan with your treating physician so that it is created and routinely updated with your specific treatment needs in mind.
For chronic pain sufferers, the psychological and physical toll is often unseen by others. It can become very isolating and interfere with even the simplest of tasks. A comprehensive pain plan can include personal goals regarding functional abilities, sleep chart, physical activity objectives, formal and informal pain management interventions (IE physical/occupational therapy, counseling, mindfulness activities), and non-medication treatment approaches to managing pain (IE use of ice, heat, stretching, posture changes, resting, etc. ). A well crafted document can serve as a point of reference for a pain sufferer or family member in a moment of distress and as an important guide for any healthcare professionals involved in managing your pain.
Catherine Funes, PsyD
Advisory Board, Mental Health Board Chair for Invisible Me Warriors