Pain management in the prehospital environment

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2005 May;23(2):415-31. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.12.009.


Pain measurement and relief is complex and should be a priority for prehospital providers and supervisors. The literature continues to prove that we are poor pain relievers, despite the high prevalence of pain in the out-of-hospital patient population. Lack of education and research, along with agent availability, controlled substance regulation, and many myths given credence by health care providers, hinder our ability to achieve adequate pain assessment and treatment in the prehospital setting. Protocols must be established to help guide providers through proper acknowledgment, measurement, and treatment for prehospital pain. Nonpharmacologic therapies must also be taught and reinforced as important adjuncts to pain management. Finally, formation of quality improvement pain programs that evaluate patient outcomes and provider practice patterns will help EMS systems understand the pain management process and outline areas for improvement. Only through emphasis on pain education, research, protocol and program monitoring development will the quality of pain assessment and management in the prehospital setting improve.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Analgesia / standards
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Emergency Medicine / methods*
  • Emergency Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / instrumentation
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods


  • Analgesics