What is a Pain Management Clinic?

At its core, a pain management clinic (PMC) is a group of healthcare providers that work together to provide effective treatments for patients struggling with long term pain. This can be a division within a larger network (such as the Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center), part of a university or hospital, or an independent practice.

People come to pain management clinics with a variety of diagnoses or, in many cases, because other healthcare providers have been unable to find a diagnosis for them. But all are looking for ways to lessen their pain and increase their ability to carry out the tasks of day-to-day life.

PMCs tend to use an interdisciplinary approach to treating pain, gaining insights from many different areas of medicine to provide comprehensive solutions to their patients. Often these providers have pursued advanced training in alleviating and minimizing incurable chronic pain. Other clinic staff can include nurses, physical therapists, acupuncturists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and medical assistants.

The First Appointment

Before making an appointment, check out the facility’s website to get an idea of the range of treatments on offer as well as who is on the staff. On the day, you may wish to arrive a little early to give yourself some time to fill out paperwork, though many clinics will also email documents to you ahead of time if it’s easier for you to complete them at home.

In your appointment, the clinician will go over your general medical history in addition to taking a detailed look at the issues for which you’re seeking treatment. It may be helpful for you to prepare a timeline that shows when your symptoms first appeared, what treatments you’ve already tried, and how effective (or not) those treatments were.

Be sure to bring any relevant blood work results, as well as copies of relevant x-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic tests. The clinician may also order more diagnostic procedures as necessary. These can be performed either at the pain management facility or other local facilities.

You and the clinician will also discuss your goals, not only for managing chronic pain but also for your life in general, and the role clinic staff can play in helping you become better able to achieve them.

Before you engage in any therapies, you and your clinic team will develop a Chronic Pain Management Plan (CPMP). A CPMP details what therapies you and your team will pursue, your goals for those therapies, and how you will assess your progress towards those goals.

Continuing Treatment

While there are residential pain management programs, most clinics work on an outpatient basis. There are a wide variety of treatments clinics may offer, ranging from major surgical procedures to patient support groups and many things in between.

The overall purpose of these treatments, however, is the same: alleviating as much pain as reasonably possible, while empowering the patient to manage continuing pain and improve their quality of life. Depending on the patient’s needs and goals, this can include:

  • Procedures such as nerve blocks and epidurals
  • Physical and occupational therapy to rebuild muscle and improve flexibility
  • Mental health treatments such as psychotherapy, meditation, and calming techniques
  • Non-invasive therapies such as massage or applications of heat or cold
  • Classes and workshops on topics such as improvements in diet and exercise or new discoveries in pain management
  • Educational resources for patients and the family and friends who support them

While patients come into pain management clinics with many different conditions, most leave with significant improvements in symptoms and, perhaps just as important, confidence in their ability to effectively manage their pain and get back to the business of living.

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