The Importance of Managing Pain When You Have a Serious Illness: What You Need To Think About

When you’re living with a serious illness, you may be experiencing physical pain. Treating that pain is crucial to your well-being and quality of life. Why? Managing pain not only makes you feel better, but it helps you to stay on the treatment plan for your illness. Pain makes recovering harder.

Pain affects millions of Americans each year, but many people don’t get the treatment they need. Pain been undertreated in the last decade because of fears of addiction and substance misuse and disorders. Many health care providers therefore tend to undertreat pain. Cancer patients and non-cancer patients with serious illnesses, however, often experience pain that must be treated.

Palliative care treats the symptoms and stress of serious illness. Palliative care teams are therefore experts in managing pain from serious illness. Your primary health care providers should do a pain assessment. But, if you’re being treated by palliative care, the team will most certainly do this.

To help explain your pain to your health care providers, think about your answers to the following questions:


What does your pain feel like?

What words would you use to describe your pain?

What words would you use to describe the pain you are having?


Where is your pain?

Where does the pain start?

Does the pain move anywhere?

Better or Worse:

What makes your pain worse? What makes your pain better?

What previous treatment have you tried to relieve your pain?

Were those treatments effective?


On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine, how much does it hurt right now?

How much does it hurt at its worst? How much does it hurt at its best?

How does the pain compare with other pain you have experienced?


When did your pain start?

How often does it occur?

Has your level of pain changed over time?

How long does it last?


How does the pain affect your sleep? Your appetite? Your energy level?

How does the pain affect your normal activities? Your work?

How does the pain affect your mood?

How does the pain affect your relationships?

Learn more

Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on the treating the symptoms and stress of serious illness. Hear Kelly’s story and Rae Anne’s story about how palliative care managed their pain during their illness.

About GetPalliativeCare.Org

GetPalliativeCare.Org is an online resource for patients and families that focuses solely on providing information on palliative care from the point of diagnosis. At you can take a short quiz to see whether you or a loved one could benefit from palliative care. The site is provided by the Center to Advance Palliative Care.



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