Does my loved one feel pain?

People with disorders of consciousness can experience pain, but, depending on their level of responsiveness, they may are not able to describe their tell us these symptoms due to their level of responsiveness. In treating people with DoC, there are some signs that you may see that might suggest your loved one is in pain. Some signs of pain may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Crying
  • Groaning
  • Grimacing

Causes of Pain

Pain may occur for many reasons. Some causes of pain include:

  • Uncomfortable positioning
  • Spasticity
  • Changes in the nerve signals in the brain following injury
  • Other injuries suffered at time of injury, such as a broken bone
  • Pre-existing conditions, such aslike arthritis
  • Sometimes pain can be the sign of a new medical condition, such as a blood clot or new skin ulcer. It is important to talk to the doctor if you think your loved one is having pain.

What are some treatments for pain?

It is important to identify the cause of pain because treatment of pain is focused on treating the underlying cause. Some things that can be done at home that may ease your loved one’s pain include.

Easy things to try at home:

  • Change your loved one’s position in the bed or the wheelchair.
  • Adjust or remove splints and braces for short periods of time. 
  • Use ice or heat but with extreme caution since they can cause skin damage.
  • Sometimes medications are needed to help with pain. Medications should be used in consultation with the treating physician. It is recommended to start with a low dose and use options that are less likely to cause (sedation) sleepiness, if possible.

Chronic Pain 

Traumatic Brain Injury and Chronic Pain | MSKTC
From Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center
Information and tips on treating chronic pain that may exist after having a traumatic brain injury (TBI).