Protocols and advice on general pain management for patients were discussed at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s Grand Rounds by Dr Karunakaran Ramaswamy, attending physician at Sidra Medicine.
Dr Ramaswamy explained that physicians treating patients in pain should follow a sequence that begins with one very simple but effective step.
“Acknowledging someone’s pain is very important,” he said. “If you are suffering and someone stops what they are doing, comes to you and says, ‘oh, you are in pain, let me help,’ it immediately makes you feel comforted. The effectiveness of this simple step should not be underestimated. This is all the more important when we consider that if you go to any hospital in the world, about 60 to 70% of patients there are in pain at any given time.”
Dr Ramaswamy then discussed other simple but effective measures, such as offering the patient a comfortable seat, a cold or warm compress and a drink all help a great deal. Once these measures have been implemented, the physician should then determine the severity of the pain and then begin to consider offering analgesic medications. He then discussed the World Health Organisation’s analgesic ladder, which explains which types of drugs to use for pain of differing levels of severity.
But simply masking pain is not sufficient, said Dr Ramaswamy. “More important is this: what is the thing that is causing pain? That is what we need to worry about because when we give painkillers, yes, it’s masking the pain, but that’s not going to cure the pain,” he explained. “But until we can treat the pain, we must use all the modalities available to us to manage the pain.”
Dr Ramaswamy also explained the physiology of pain, the importance of listening carefully to patients’ accounts of their pain, and the effectiveness of multi-disciplinary approaches to pain management involving a variety of different health professionals.
“Treating pain is not just about writing a prescription. It’s about treating a patient as a whole, not just addressing one symptom,” he added.