What if my pain relief isn’t working?

It is important to tell your doctor or nurse as early as possible if your pain is not under control or has got worse.

If your pain gets worse or is not being kept under control your medical team will want to know about it. Don’t wait to ask for help with pain.

Your doctor or nurse may increase the dose of your painkillers or change the way you take them. For example, they may suggest switching to a different painkiller. If your painkillers are not controlling your pain, there are other types of pain relief and other ways of managing your pain.

If your pain isn’t under control, it may help to have a specialist palliative care or supportive care review. Your GP or hospital team can refer you for this. It may include having an appointment with the palliative care team, or going into a hospital or a hospice for a short time to treat your pain and other symptoms. Once your pain is back under control, you can go home again.

If you haven’t already seen a palliative care or pain specialist, ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to one.

Read about palliative care

“I think people sometimes think they are on the highest dose they can be when they’re given something like morphine and that’s not always true. Often the pain can be due to other things and there are other things that can be done.”

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


  • What type of painkiller should I take?
  • Can you explain how and when I should take painkillers?
  • What pain relief should I take for breakthrough pain, and how should I use it?
  • What side effects might I get?
  • Should I take anything to prevent side effects?
  • How will these painkillers affect my daily life?
  • Will I be able to drive?
  • What should I do if the pain doesn’t get better or gets worse?
  • Are there any instructions on how to store my painkillers?
  • If my medicine is changed, what should I do with the painkillers I no longer need?

Speak to your doctor or nurse about pain

Speak to your doctor or nurse about any pain.

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about pain and how it can be managed.

Speak to our nurses

Updated February 2019

To be reviewed February 2021