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Sickle Cell Disease: Pain Management

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Pain is a long-lasting problem for people who have sickle cell disease. Bouts of severe pain can last for hours to days and are difficult to treat. Pain can be exhausting for caregivers as well as for the person in pain. A pain management plan can help a person cope with chronic pain and with pain caused by a sickle cell crisis.

Your doctor or a pain treatment specialist can help you make a pain management plan. This plan includes instructions on how to treat mild pain at home. And it tells you when you need to go to the hospital if your pain gets worse.

Your management plan:

How can you prevent and treat pain at home?

Treatment of pain at home is a way of life for most people with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell pain varies from person to person, from mild to severe, and from occasional to constant. Some people experience numerous sickle cell crises, or painful events, a few times a year. Others experience none.

In many cases, you can treat mild to severe sickle cell pain at home with a combination of pain medicines, plenty of fluids, and comfort measures such as heating pads or hot water bottles. Do not use heating pads with children.

Painful events can become severe and last for days to weeks. Such extreme pain requires aggressive pain medicine that must be monitored in the hospital. If pain is increasing and isn't relieved by treatment at home, call your doctor and seek emergency medical care.

Preventing pain

Mild to moderate body pain and some sickle cell crises can be prevented by:

Treating pain

Pain can be treated at home with:

For more information, see the topic Chronic Pain.

How is pain treated in the hospital?

If you go to the hospital, you will be treated with a strong pain medicine. This might be an opioid medicine, such as morphine.


Credits for Sickle Cell Disease: Pain Management

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Martin Steinberg MD - Hematology


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