Family doctors and GPs do their best to help patients manage pain. When their efforts are not enough, they refer patients to specialized pain clinics staffed by doctors and nurses whose jobs center around pain management. As a general rule, pain clinics are a better option for chronic pain patients whose family doctors or GPs struggle to help them.
For the record, pain medicine is a recognized medical specialty. It is what we specialize in here at KindlyMD. If it is your first time visiting our pain clinic, our number one goal is to help patients take control of their own care while we work with them to find the best possible avenue for long-term pain relief.
Pain clinics can be standalone practices or part of group practices or hospital groups. One way or the other, a pain clinic is a facility whose mission and staff are focused on two main goals: diagnosis and chronic pain management. You will not find pain management doctors dealing with things like the common cold and infant colic. Most cases involve chronic pain.
Clinic staff can also vary. A typical clinic team includes:
Some pain management clinics go so far as to have psychologists on staff. In other cases, doctors may refer patients to independent psychologists.
The primary goal of a pain clinic is to help manage chronic pain. In essence, the whole purpose of pain medicine is to help patients maintain a high quality of life through the proper management of chronic pain. Included in a high quality-of-life is maximum function.
Chronic pain is such that it can be debilitating. It can cause a loss of function in the affected body parts. If that loss is severe enough, it can prevent a person from working, pursuing hobbies, and doing many of the things that the rest of us take for granted.
Pain management physicians look to relieve pain. They look to restore function so that a patient can go back to doing all those things that were done prior to onset.
The most notable thing patients can expect from pain clinics is the actual approach. It starts with a diagnosis. A good pain management physician doesn't just ask a few questions and then guess at a diagnosis. Rather, proper pain medicine technique requires doing a thorough evaluation in an attempt to get to the root causes of pain. Evaluations are often complemented by diagnostic tests.
Once the root cause of a patient's pain is discovered, a pain medicine doctor works with the patient to come up with the best course of action. How does this differ from the experience at a GPs office? For starters, rare is the pain management physician who immediately pulls out the prescription pad and writes a prescription for pain medication.
There are other ways to treat pain that don't require opioid medications or other pain-relieving drugs. Pain clinic staff might encourage patients to look at physical therapy, dietary changes, exercise, and other options. This is not to say that pain medications do not have a place in pain management. They do. But pain management physicians don't assume that medications are always the best and first course of action.
If your GP has referred you to a pain clinic, do not stress over it. If you are visiting a pain clinic for the first time, chances are that one of the clinic's pain management physicians will be able to help you more than your GP.