WHAT MAKES A CHRONIC PAIN CLINIC DIFFERENT?
HOW DOES A CHRONIC PAIN CLINIC DIFFER FROM A SINGLE DOCTOR?
If you’ve read about chronic pain or are experiencing it, you will be aware that chronic pain is a complex beast, with multiple heads. You may also be aware, that there is generally no single treatment that will dissolve the chronic pain away.
That’s not to say the pain can’t be managed. The key to good pain management is: the right treatment, at the right time, delivered by the right team of experts.
In their journey for pain relief, most people with chronic pain see many single doctors or carers on their journey seeking pain relief and depending on the doctors level of expertise and the team around them, they may or may not be able to manage the pain effectively. Another disadvantage of people face in their pain journeys is they can end up consulting many sources that all seem to give conflicting advice. This can be confusing and end up costing you time and money.
If you are reading this, chances are, you have already explored a number of different medical options that have not helped. You may be feeling frustrated, angry and fed up because your pain is so persistent.
A chronic pain clinic is different. It consists of a team of experts that focus all their experience and resources on understanding, diagnosing and managing chronic (persistent) pain. Being managed at a chronic pain clinic is a journey; it can take time. The key is to know and like your team and make sure they understand you and your pain.
Even when the pain can be reduced with medical therapies like medications, nerve blocks or even neurostimulation, a vital part of pain clinics is helping you learn ways to cope with chronic pain and regaining control of your life. Pain clinics have the resources to provide this.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING MY FIRST VISIT TO A PAIN CLINIC?
The pain specialist physician would be the key specialist doctor overseeing and coordinating your care.
The most important consideration in looking for a pain management specialist (sometimes called chronic pain specialist physician), is to find someone who has the correct training, expertise and experience to help you and your specific pain problem. It’s also very important that you feel comfortable with him/her and that they respect you and have earned your trust.
Make sure your pain specialist has the correct qualifications. You should also find out how your pain specialist physician was trained and whether he/she holds a fellowship/qualification in pain medicine. In Australia it is Fellow of the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (FFPMANZCA).
Managing pain is a journey. It can sometimes take time. On your first visit to a pain specialist physician, he or she will get to know your pain and how it is affecting you and your life. If your story is complicated, it may even take more than one visit for your pain specialist to get a handle on your pain.
The more information you provide, the better equipped your pain specialist will be to piece together your story of pain.
- Fill out any questionnaires about your pain, that you receive, and use as much detail as you can. Take in all your relevant scans and investigations like as X-rays, computed tomography (CAT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
- You pain specialist will take a detailed story of your pain. This might include finding out about your other medical problems and past surgeries. He/she may perform a physical examination and look at the various tests you have had in the past.
- Your pain specialist will give you a diagnosis of your pain or at least, a plan of action to ascertain the cause of your pain. He/she will likely discuss treatment pathways and what may be best for you. Your pain specialist should take your views and opinions into consideration before making a treatment plan.
Then depending on your pain diagnosis, the level on your pain, other medical problems and other factors your pain specialist has considered various therapies and medical experts in the clinic will be engaged to support you in your journey.
A truly multidisciplinary pain clinic will treat all types of pains, which may include the following:
Spinal and limb pains
- Ankle pain
- Back pain
- Brachial plexopathy
- Degenerative disc disease
- Facet joint pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain
- Meralgia paraesthetica
- Neck pain
- Piriformis syndrome
- Post-laminectomy Syndrome
- Prolapsed discs
- Radicular pain
- Sacroiliac joint pain
- Shoulder pain
- Spinal stenosis
- Thoracic pain
- Whiplash pain
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
- Ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric & genitofemoral neuralgia
- Pain caused by any nerve injury
- Peripheral nerve damage
- Phantom pain
- Post herpetic neuralgia
- Post mastectomy pain
- Post herpetic neuralgia
Head and neck pain
- Cervicogenic headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Complex regional pain syndrome of the face
- Ear, nose & throat pain
- Facial pain
- Glossopharyngeal neuralgia
- Interstitial cystitis (bladder pain)
- Medication overuse headaches
- Occipital neuralgia
- Ocular (eye) & periocular
- Odontalgia (dental pain)
- Tension-type headache
- TMJ pain
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Whiplash syndrome
Genaral pain syndromes
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal wall pain
- Angina pain (refractory)
- Cancer pain
- Chest wall pain
- Intestinal pain
- Myofascial pain
- Osteitis pubis
- Pancreatic pain
- Pelvic pain
- Post surgical pain syndromes
- Rib pain
- Testicular pain
- Visceral pain e.g. pelvic pain, abdominal pains
Some other carers in a pain clinic or that pain specialists work with who you may require include:
- Occupational Therapist
- Pain Nurse
The key is the right treatment for the right person at the right time.
Some of the therapies and therapeutic approaches provided by pain clinics include the following:
- The medical therapies (red) are provided by your pain specialists
- The physical therapies (green) are provided by your pain physiotherapist
- The functional therapies (purple) are provided by your pain occupational therapist
- The psychological therapies (blue) are provided by your pain psychologist
- The educational bits (orange) are provided by all your pain experts, every step of the way