Papers And Originals

Control of Pain in the Rheumatic Disorders

Br Med J 1968; 3 doi: (Published 14 September 1968) Cite this as: Br Med J 1968;3:635
  1. F. Dudley Hart


    Pain may be attacked in the rheumatic diseases (1) centrally, with drugs ranging in efficiency from those which are potentially addictive and under the Dangerous Drugs Act (e.g., pethidine) and are therefore rarely used, down to simple analgesics such as paracetamol; (2) peripherally, by local action, whether it be by applications of heat or cold, by injections of local anaesthetics or anti-inflammatory agents, or by surgery; (3) peripherally, by anti-inflammatory non-analgesic agents taken systemically, such as the corticosteroids; and (4) peripherally, by anti-inflammatory-analgesic-antipyretic agents taken systemically, such as aspirin.

    The exact sites of action of the pyrazoles, indomethacin, the anthranilic compounds, and other anti-inflammatory-analgesic-antipyretic drugs are as yet uncertain, but along with these methods of attacking the pain-producing areas help must also be given to the distressed mind behind the joints. Faith in the future, cheerfulness, freedom from depression, and the development of a philosophy to deal with the uncertainties of the disease are essential. It has been said that you don't have to be a doctor to treat uncomplicated lobar pneumonia: anybody with a bottle of penicillin in his hands holds the cure. It is the incurable diseases that are really worth treating, and that make demands on the physician. To quote Tuker: “My last word is this. Whoever has the care of a sorely stricken arthritic must encourage him to fulfil himself intellectually and spiritually, and to achieve—no matter what, but to achieve, so that he may nightly lay himself down on his bed of pain looking forward happily to the morrow's task, mind centred upon it, no matter what it is; sticking in stamps, research into anything you like, dabbling with pastel or water colours, writing chatty letters to friends. Anything at all, but let it be for him the most pressing thing of the day, and let him believe that you think it is. Help him and let him live, live fully.”

    This is perhaps the best analgesic of all.


    • * Based on a lecture given before the Willesden General Hospital Medical Society on 15 May 1968.