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The Pain Facts


The Pain Facts

Pain is the body’s warning system. It lets you know when something is not right. When you have a bleed, it's very likely that you will feel pain. Treating your bleed as soon as possible and adequately will actually reduce your pain, lessen the risk of permanent joint damage, and get you back to doing the things you enjoy.

In this section of Next Step, you’ll learn:

Pain Basics

There are two types of pain: acute pain and chronic pain.

  • Acute pain is short-term pain. People with bleeding disorders usually experience acute pain when they have bleeding into a joint or muscle. You can also have acute pain after surgery.
  • Chronic pain, also called persistent pain, is long-term pain. You may feel some discomfort all the time or have pain that continues after an injury has healed. This is usually caused by arthritis or joint disease caused by repeated bleeds into the joints.

Who Should You Talk to About Pain?

Speak with your parents, Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) team, school nurse, teachers, or coach about any pain you may have. It’s important to tell others what your pain feels like and how it affects your ability to participate in activities, such as school, sports, or spending time with family and friends. When you tell others how you feel, they will be able to help and support you.

Here are some words to describe pain:

  • Aching
  • Pulling
  • Tingling
  • Bubbling
  • Cramping
  • Throbbing
  • Warmth

In your treatment journal record any pain you have experienced and what you did to relieve it. This will help you, your doctors, and your family understand your pain and how your body responds to treatments.

Using a Pain Scale

Pain scales are a way to measure pain. They help health care providers understand exactly where and how you hurt. If you ever have trouble finding the words to describe how you feel, a pain scale may help you. It has pictures, diagrams, checklists, and questions to help you talk with your Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) team about your pain. It also has a calendar so you can record when you’re having pain.

Taking Care of Your Pain

There are lots of ways to make you feel better when you have pain. Talk to your parents and Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) team about the best ways to help relieve your pain.

Here are the types of treatments used to help relieve pain:

  • Drug treatment. This is also called pharmacologic therapy or pharmacologic treatment. There are different types of medicines (over-the-counter [OTC] and by a doctor’s prescription) you can take to help ease your pain or lessen the swelling that causes the pain. Always speak to your parents and/or health care provider before taking any pain medicine. Some of them can make your bleeding worse.
Some pain medications can be addictive. Taking more than one type of pain medicine at a time can be harmful. Only take prescription pain medicine your health care provider has ordered. And, take them only as directed.
  • Physical treatment. Think of this literally as “hands-on” therapy.
    • R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate).
    • Immobilization or stabilization. This means using something, like a splint, crutch or pillow, to keep your arm or leg still or in one position.
    • Physical therapy consists of doing exercises taught to you by a trained physical therapist to help strengthen and stretch your muscles. Knowing these exercises will help to reduce the risk of joint bleeds, and fewer joint bleeds means less pain!
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). CAM is a very broad and changing area of health care. Some people think of CAM as “mind-body” therapy to help lessen pain. It uses some physical treatment–like methods, such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga, along with some psychologic treatment–like methods, such as art and music therapy and meditation.
  • Psychologic Approaches. The goal of this type of therapy is to help you stay calm and comfortable. It uses a wide variety of methods—from talking with counselors and meditation, to deep breathing exercises.

A Message From a Physical Therapist

“As a physical therapist, my role is to improve quality of life.”

"As a physical therapist, my role is to improve quality of life. The primary way to do that is through education: helping families understand what sports are safe, what activities, what exercises; how someone can be more comfortable if they’ve had a bleed, and how to recover from a bleed."

"With hemophilia, we have bleeds within the joints and within the muscles that cause tremendous musculoskeletal problems: stiffness and pain, loss of motion, and loss of strength. So, we are very much involved with hands-on treatment: trying to manage the effects of bleeds – especially pain."

Ruth Mulvany, PT, DPT, MS
Associate Professor, University of Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee