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HIV-Related Pain

May 2012

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What to Do if You Have Pain

When you experience pain, it is important to know how to get fast, safe relief.

  • Do not ignore your pain -- Pain is the body's way of telling us something is wrong. Ignoring pain often makes matters worse and can cause more damage in the long run.
  • Assess your pain -- When pain occurs ask yourself the following questions:

    • How long have I had the pain?
    • Did it happen suddenly or over time?
    • Is the pain sharp or dull?
    • What makes the pain worse?
    • Does anything ease the pain?
    • Is the pain limited to one place or does it spread out to other areas?
    • Are there other symptoms (for example numbness, cough, or fever)?
  • Tell your health care provider -- Report pain to your provider without delay. Describing your pain will help find the cause and how best to treat it.
  • Take your pain medicine as directed -- If you need pain medications, make sure you take them exactly as prescribed. Pain medications work best if they are taken at the first sign of pain. Waiting until the pain is very bad before taking pain medicine, or "toughing it out" is not helpful. In fact, waiting almost always results in your needing to take more pain medication than if you had begun taking it at the first sign of pain.
  • Be responsible -- Pain medications are very effective when taken as prescribed. Taking them incorrectly can be dangerous. Opioids are addictive, meaning you can develop physical and emotional dependence on a drug. High doses can cause breathing problems. In the worst cases, incorrect use of opioids can be fatal.
    Opioids are also controlled substances, which means their distribution, possession, and use are controlled by the government. It is illegal in the US to sell or share your opioid pain medications with others.
  • Tell your health care provider if treatment does not work -- If your pain medicine is not relieving your pain, talk to your providers. You may be taking a medication that will not work for you, or you may have built a tolerance to the drugs over time. You may need to change doses or switch to a new medication.

Pain is common among HIV+ people. However, it can be managed using a variety of methods. Talk to your health care provider if you are having pain. He or she can work with you to find the cause, manage the pain, and improve your quality of life.

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
 
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