Dame Cicely Saunders coined the term ‘‘total pain’’ and suggested that pain can be understood as having physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual components.
The combination of these elements is believed to result in a ‘‘total pain’’ experience that is individualized and specific to each patient's particular situation.
Many examples demonstrate the ‘‘total pain’’ experience, in which effective pain relief follows the acknowledgment and management of the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions.
Pain control is a central component of symptom management for many patients in palliative care, and the assessment of pain is a critical part of this pain management. Without a clear conceptualization of pain for the palliative cancer patient population, it becomes difficult to assess patient pain appropriately.
Understanding that people experience ‘‘total pain’’ is critical for health care professionals. The physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions/causes may contribute to the patient's pain experience. Without a complete and thorough assessment of these dimensions, an accurate picture of the patient's situation cannot be obtained.
The concept of ‘‘total pain’’ may serve as the basis for pain assessment in order to intervene successfully. When patients report pain, hurting, or suffering, it is important to assess these experiences through a multidimensional lens (multidimensional evaluation) that allows for the appreciation of all possible causes and influences.
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Adapted from Mehta A. Understanding of the concept of "Total Pain": A prerequisite for pain control. Internet. Accessed on July 5, 2018. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232189342_Understanding_of_the_Concept_of_Total_Pain_A_Prerequisite_for_Pain_Control