Skip to Content

Controlling Pain

You have a right to pain control. People used to think that pain was something they “just had to put up with.” But with current treatments, that’s no longer true. You can work with your nurse or doctor to control pain.

What is pain?

Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. When there is trauma to your body, like infection, inflammation, arthritis, tumors, surgery or an injury, tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and then up to your brain. Pain treatments block or decrease these messages.

Pain Control Can Promote Healing

With less pain, walking and other activities are easier. Breathing and sleeping are improved. The benefits of good pain control include fewer problems (like pneumonia and blood clots) and faster healing.

Download Pain Scale

Pain Control Can Help You Heal (PDF)

Communication is Key

Pain is real… and it affects each person differently. The nurse and doctor caring for you need to know about your pain.

The nurse or doctor will ask you to explain what your pain is like:

  • Is it sharp or dull?
  • Is it constant or on and off?
  • Is it annoying or unbearable?
  • The nurse or doctor will ask you to score the severity of your pain, using a pain scale of one to 10 one being the least and 10 being the most.

Your pain score is used to adjust the amount and type of medication and treatment you receive.

Pain Control Options

Both drug and non-drug treatments can help to prevent and control pain. Sometimes a combination of treatments works to manage pain. You, your family, the nurse and doctor will work together to find what controls your pain.

When to Ask for Pain Medicine

Take (or ask for) pain medicine:

  • When pain first begins
  • Before a procedure or test
  • Before a therapy session

You may be afraid to talk about your pain or think that you will be labeled a complainer if you do. Not talking about pain can lead to unnecessary suffering and a slower recovery. If your pain treatments aren’t working, tell the nurse or doctor. The pain management plan will be changed until pain is controlled.


Various medicines can be used to manage your pain. For mild pain, a nonprescription drug like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil) may be helpful.

For more intense pain, a stronger prescription drug like morphine may be needed. Your need for medicine may change over time; this is normal. Don’t worry about getting “hooked” on pain medicines. Research studies show that this is very rare—nearly all people stop taking pain medicine when the pain stops.

Non-Medication Treatments for Pain

Many other treatments are used to treat pain. Some examples of non-drug treatments are:

  • Use of heat and cold
  • Rest or position change
  • Relaxation methods
  • Nerve blocks
  • Biofeedback
  • TENS units
  • Surgery

Our Locations

Connect with the UPMC Central PA Portal app 24/7

The UPMC Central PA Portal provides patients with convenient and secure access to their health information right at their fingertips. View test results. Get virtual care. Message your care team. Schedule and manage appointments. And much more.

Log-In or Sign Up Today

Contact UPMC

When it comes to health care for you and your family, UPMC is here. It's easy to find the right doctor, health screenings, programs, classes, and more.

Contact UPMC in central Pa.