Now no need to suffer pain in silence
Patients asked to rate pain so it can be
FOR too long, patients have endured pain silently, although
it is usually treatable, doctors say.
'Pain is a medical condition that is relatively
under-treated, like a poor second cousin,' said a National
Cancer Centre pain relief expert, Dr Cynthia Goh.
Doctors tend to view it as a secondary problem to a
disease, while patients often accept it as inevitable and do
not bring it up, she said.
The extent to which pain is overlooked is unknown, but it
can develop into chronic pain, which studies have shown one in
five suffers in the United States, Australia and
Hospitals are now setting up a system to take the amount of
pain a patient is in into account and treat him for it.
Since April 1, pain has been monitored at Singapore General
Hospital and the cancer centre as a fifth vital sign, in
addition to pulse and breathing rates, blood pressure and
Other public hospitals and specialist centres are expected
to start doing so in the next few months.
Patients will be asked to rate, from zero to 10, the amount
of pain they feel, and describe it. Those who cannot will be
asked to choose from a range of printed facial expressions one
that corresponds to what they feel.
Nurses will manage mild pain, but extremely severe cases
could be seen by a pain specialist.
Before pain management began, a few medical officers,
mostly anaesthetists, trained as pain
Since the late 1990s, some US hospitals have had to have
pain assessment programmes to be accredited.
Routine checks of pain levels, said SGH pain specialist Yeo
Sow Nam, would cut down inadequate treatment of pain and alert
doctors early to possible complications, such as a wound that
has become infected.
Better handling of pain can also prevent its development
into chronic pain that is more difficult to treat, he
This is increasingly regarded as a disease, as sufferers
can become depressed, irritable and anxious, he
To raise awareness, SGH will hold a public pain management
forum at Block 6, Level 9, on April 24, from 1.30pm to