Chronic pain management is a relatively new field, with the first pain clinic set up in 1960. There are currently just under four hundred accredited pain management programs, clinics and pain centers in the country. These include private clinics as well as those housed within hospitals and universities.
The American Academy of Pain Management is the only multi-disciplinary body offering healthcare practitioners certification in pain management. To find a suitable clinic it is worth consulting your general practitioner, a local hospital or even a medical school. Organizations that support pain research may be able to help, such as the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Or ask friends for local recommendations.
Inside a Pain Management Clinic
Pain management clinic employs an interdisciplinary approach to pain relief all working together to achieve an improvement in the quality of the lives of those living in constant pain. A professional team of medical practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and nurse practitioners are employed to assess the individual and provided a coordinated team effort in creating a pain management program.
History and Physical
An initial assessment is performed by a doctor, who will look into the complete medical history, previous illnesses and overall health. Questions will be asked about the pain itself, previous pain episodes, how they were treated and whether treatment was successful.
The doctor may ask about any family history of chronic pain, current pain treatment and identification of activities that may trigger pain episodes. Questions about diet and lifestyle may also be asked.
A physical examination will allow the doctor to identify areas of pain and he will assess physical well- being. This exam may uncover health problems, which have been contributing towards the chronic pain. Moving the limbs will help identify painful areas.
Neurological and Mental Health Exam
A neurological examination may also be undertaken to identify possible problems with the nervous system by asking the patient to complete a few physical tasks, and checking reflexes and physical stimuli.
A mental health assessment will assess the ability to remember, reason and think, and will evaluate emotional functioning. Depression, stress and insomnia are often side effects of living with chronic pain and can even contribute towards it. The doctor may also ask about alcohol and drug usage.
Diagnostic Tests are part of Pain Management Clinic Protocol
A series of diagnostic tests may be used to rule out or identify health conditions. Blood tests will determine underlying health problems, such as infection or disease. X-rays, scans and other imaging tests may also be used to look for disease or injury.
Electromyogram and other nerve tests measure muscle and nerve function to determine whether this is where the chronic pain lies. Angiograms and other vascular studies may be used to trace the movement in the body, while diagnostic nerve blocks can identify if a nerve is causing the pain.
With these multiple approaches to find the root cause of pain, the management team can then work alongside the patient to produce a highly individualized pain management program.