Pain is never a pleasant thing to experience, but severe pain is often debilitating and life-limiting. Someone with severe pain often can’t think about anything else, and has difficulty concentrating on anything other than the pain.
Most pain can be relieved with over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, but in cases of severe pain, patients often need much stronger medicines to control their pain levels to a manageable state.
The nerves are responsible for carrying signals from the source to the brain where it’s interpreted as pain. In a vast majority of cases, the brain then releases chemicals such as dopamine to suppress the pain, but this isn’t always enough to stop your symptoms.
Pain relief, when used correctly, can greatly improve the quality of life of someone that’s in pain. However, it should be noted that many strong painkillers can be addictive, and therefore dangerous. You should only use these medicines (for example, opiates), if you’re in a great deal of pain, otherwise you risk building up a tolerance and dependence.
Our Health Care Team
"Severe pain is an awful thing to deal with, and often, it’s our bodies’ way of telling us that something is wrong. Luckily, there are medicines that can help to relieve some of the pain to make your daily life more manageable. If you experience severe pain for any reason, please see your own doctor or seek emergency treatment to find out what’s causing it before ordering pain relief online."
What is Severe pain?
Severe pain is difficult to describe. Because everyone’s pain tolerance is different, there’s no definitive way of giving an example of severe pain. However, many doctors and healthcare professionals use something called a pain scale to determine how much pain you’re in. Severe pain is generally life-limiting, and affects your daily life, as well as impairing mobility and physical activity. In many cases of severe pain, it becomes difficult to think about anything else or concentrate on other things. Severe pain is very difficult to ignore. Sometimes, severe pain will require hospitalisation, and you may be given extremely strong medication to bring your pain levels under control, or to a degree where the pain is manageable.
What causes severe pain?
Severe pain can have many causes, and as mentioned before, everyone’s pain tolerance is different, so something that causes you to be in extreme pain could only make someone else feel mild discomfort and vice versa. For example, patients with fibromyalgia, nerve damage, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and other conditions will be more sensitive to pain than someone without these issues, so pretty much anything can cause severe pain depending on the circumstances and your overall health.
There may also be certain factors that influence how sensitive you are to pain, including (but not limited to):
- Long-term health issues
- Psychological factors
- Social factors
- Past experiences
Generally speaking, pain is usually caused by tissue damage, so as a broad explanation, that’s usually what’s behind severe pain, but tissue damage could be anything. It could be the skin, internal organs, or the nerves themselves. Because pain is such a generic symptom, it’s difficult to say what might cause it. However, the type of pain you feel might tell you more about how it began. For example, severe back pain might suggest an accident, injury, pulled muscle or spinal cord injury. Pain in the arm might suggest a broken bone, whilst severe pain in the head could be due to a migraine or another serious condition.
If you’re experiencing severe pain for the first time, or in a new or different area of your body, you should first seek urgent help by dialling 111, or going to your nearest accident and emergency department. Severe pain is usually your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and you should find out the cause of it before ordering any pain relief online. After you’ve been diagnosed or examined, you can then order pain relief for yourself through our website, but please only do this if your doctor or another healthcare professional is aware of your symptoms.
Is severe pain the same as chronic pain?
No, but that doesn’t mean that people with chronic pain don’t have severe pain. Severe pain only describes the intensity of the pain you feel, whilst chronic pain determines that you’ve been experiencing pain of some sort for a long time (usually 3 months or more).
People with chronic pain often feel pain long after an injury or original tissue damage, and there’s even some evidence to suggest that chronic pain can alter the nervous system, making it more sensitive to pain or pain signals.
People with chronic pain usually have some “base level” of pain that ranges from mild to moderate, but often experience “flare ups” that can cause debilitating pain.
Severe pain can also be acute (short-lived), but no matter how long you have pain for, the chances are that if you’re struggling to ignore it, you’ll need some sort of pain relief.
Pain relief for severe pain
Due to the nature and intensity of severe pain, it often can’t be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, though they may also be included as part of your treatment regime.
In many cases of severe pain, a family of medicines called opiates are needed to treat it. These can be dangerous and addictive, so many opiates are only available through your own doctor to reduce the potential for drug abuse from addiction patients. However, some opiates such as codeine, dihydrocodeine and co-codamol (all codeine derivatives) are able to be purchased online after a consultation with a GP.
Most medicines for severe pain are prescription-only due to their strength, side effects, and potential of addiction, some of which include:
Whilst we can’t provide all of these on the Doctor4U website due to medicine regulations, we can provide information pages to help you to choose which pain relief treatment is the best option for you.
Some opiates (such as codeine) can be used with paracetamol (sometimes combined in a single pill known as co-codamol). Most can also be used alongside NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to boost your pain relief. However, it’s important to know that some of the side effects of medicines for severe pain include:
You might not tolerate some medicines, and you should see if the benefits of a drug outweigh the side effects. If the answer is no, you should go back to your GP to discuss alternative treatments. There may be a drug that helps to relieve your pain that you can tolerate better.
What types of pain are there?
There are many different types of pain that a person can experience, and each one can range from mild to severe, depending on the intensity of the tissue damage and your own pain threshold. Some types of acute (short-term) pain include:
- Somatic pain: felt on the skin or soft tissue just below it
- Visceral pain: comes from the internal organs or linings of the cavities in the body
- Referred pain: felt at a different location than the source of pain
Oher types of pain can include:
- Neuropathic pain: appears after an injury to the nerves (such as in the case of a spinal cord injury or conditions like diabetes) If you know that your pain originates from the nerves, please look at our dedicated page for neuropathy
- Phantom pain: happens after the amputation of part of the body, where pain is still felt despite there being no tissue there. This affects around 70% of amputees
- Central pain: this can come from an infarction, abscess, tumour, degeneration or hemorrhage.
These are the most common types of pain that you might feel, and knowing which one you’re suffering with can make sure that you get the right medicine. However, you might first need tests and physical examinations to diagnose you with a certain type of pain. In most cases, opioids or strong anti-inflammatory medicines will be prescribed until a definitive cause of the pain can be found.
If you’re talking to your doctor about severe pain and are looking for treatment, they’ll want to know both:
- How much it hurts (you may be asked to demonstrate this on a pain scale)
- How it hurts (burning, stabbing, dull, achy etc)
How do I know how severe my pain is?
Most pain scales will have measures of how each number correlates to a certain level of pain. To give you an idea, a 10 on the scale is extremely severe pain that will leave you unconscious. Only a few people ever experience this type of pain in their lives. If you’re screaming or moaning uncontrollably and can’t think about anything else at all, you may be a 9 on the scale.
A good measure of knowing that you have moderate to severe pain is when you struggle to think of anything else, find it difficult to concentrate, and might struggle to hold a conversation. At this point, you should seek help from 111 or the emergency services if you have no pain relief available to you immediately.