There are two kinds of pain that a person with hemophilia may experience:
- Acute pain is short-term. It’s caused by bleeding into a joint or muscle and is usually the earliest sign of a bleed. A bleed that is not treated quickly can make the pain much worse. Even if there are no other obvious signs of bleeding, such as swelling, clotting factor therapy is recommended.
- Chronic pain is longer-term. It’s caused by long-term, or repeated, joint damage and typically affects older people with hemophilia who have ‘built’ up joint damage over the years.
The most effective way to manage pain in hemophilia is to prevent bleeds. This can help prevent repeated joint damage, which is a common source of chronic pain. And when a bleed does happen, it’s important to treat it early to help manage acute pain.
Treating acute pain
Pain from a bleed can be managed by giving factor replacement infusions to stop the bleeding. There are also non-medical techniques that can be used. Applying ice may also reduce acute pain. Supporting the arm or leg on a pillow, or in a splint, may also help. A relaxing activity or a warm bath can help soothe muscles, and take someone’s mind off their pain.
If your or a loved one is receiving regular factor infusion treatment and it does not seem to relieve the pain, contact your HTC immediately. It’s possible that inhibitors have developed that are interfering with treatment, or there may be another reason for the pain that’s not related to bleeding.
Are pain medications OK?
Yes, medications can be used to relieve hemophilia-related pain. However, many over-the-counter painkillers should NOT be used by people with hemophilia—for example, products that contain Aspirin® (also called acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA), which can affect platelet function. Check with your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor before you take any pain medication.
Treating chronic pain
Chronic pain can be very taxing – and significantly affect a person’s quality of life. But there are a number of treatment options available. Be as specific as possible with your HTC team about the pain you’re feeling, so they can identify possible causes and suggest solutions. A consultation with a physiotherapist can also be helpful. He or she may suggest different strategies to help manage the pain, including exercises and mobility devices. Talking to a social worker may also help you cope with the emotional aspects of pain – which are often forgotten, but important to deal with.
Don’t feel as though you are facing your pain alone: talk to your HTC team about how you’re feeling. You don’t have to struggle in silence, and there may be things that can help.
Learning how to take care of yourself in the face of age-related issues is just as important to people with hemophilia as it is to the rest of the population.
Learn more about aging with hemophilia