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HIV-Related Pain

July 8, 2015

HIV-Related Pain

Table of Contents


Pain is common in people living with HIV (HIV+ people). One study found that more than half of women living with HIV had pain in the last six months. Pain can occur at all stages of HIV disease and can affect many parts of the body. Usually pain occurs more often and becomes more severe as HIV disease progresses. But each individual person is different. While some people may experience a lot of pain, others have little or none. The good news is that, as HIV treatments have improved, fewer people living with HIV are experiencing pain.

What Causes Pain?

HIV related pain may be:

Regardless of its cause, pain should be evaluated and treated to help you have a good quality of life.

Common Types of Pain

The first step in managing HIV related pain is identifying the type, and if possible, the cause of pain. Some common types of pain include the following:


Assessing Pain

The goals of pain assessment are to:

  1. Define the severity of pain (how much it hurts): Your health care provider may ask you to assign a number to your pain, from one (very mild pain) to ten (the worst possible pain). Pictures can also describe pain. A smiling face represents little or no pain, while a crying face represents severe pain.
  2. Describe details of your pain: Your health care provider may ask you to describe how your pain feels, for example sharp, dull, throbbing, or burning. Is it new (acute) or have you had it for a while (chronic)? Where is it located? Is it constant, or does it come and go?

You may be having pain and do not want to complain about it. However, pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. Talking to your health care provider about how you feel is not complaining -- it is the best thing you can do to find out what is wrong and get the right treatment.

Pain Management

Once the type and characteristics of pain are identified, you and your health care provider will decide how to manage or treat it. The following factors will play a role in choosing the right type of treatment for you:

If your pain is being caused by a medication you are taking or another illness, your health care provider may want to take care of that first. If you are still experiencing pain, there are many options for pain relief.

Non-Medicinal Therapies

Pain relief options without medications include:

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