If you have chronic pain, you may be referred to a pain clinic (also called pain management services), where you may be seen by one or more healthcare providers.
What is a pain clinic?
Pain clinics are healthcare facilities that focus on the management of chronic pain. You will be referred to the clinic by your doctor (GP). You attend the pain clinic regularly, not just once, as an outpatient. This means you have an appointment and come to the clinic at that time and then go home again.
The goal of the clinic is to increase your understanding of chronic pain and teach you strategies that will help you to function despite pain. This improves your quality of life. There is a team of healthcare providers at the clinic to help you with that.
Who's in a pain team?
The best way to manage pain is to have a team of people around you. Depending on your pain and any other health issues you have, your team of healthcare professionals may include:
- pain specialist
- pain nurse specialist
- occupational therapist
- social worker
You’ll see some of these people regularly and others only as needed, or not at all.
What does the pain team offer?
Your healthcare team will treat, support, encourage, motivate, inspire and help you along the way.
The first thing they will do is a full assessment of your pain and what you need to help you manage it. This may involve several members of the team, as the team understands that chronic or persistent pain is influenced by many things.
Based on this assessment, you and your healthcare provider will develop a customised treatment plan to improve your activity levels and independence. The plan will provide the most effective strategies to better manage your symptoms. This may include medicine, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and talking therapy. You may be offered the opportunity to take part in a programme or join a support group.
Your pain team will also provide you with information and resources to help you better understand chronic pain, including how your own thoughts and feelings can affect your experience of your pain.
What's my role with the pain team?
At the heart of the team is you. You’re the central player. You know how your body is feeling and what problems you’re having. The pain team's role is to assist you with understanding and adopting a self-management approach to your pain. This will enable you to take some control back from your pain and improve your day-to-day function and quality of life.
You and your whānau will be encouraged to play an active role in your pain management.
What other support is there for me?
Your general practitioner (GP) will also be a key team member and will likely be the health professional you see the most.
Your wider pain team includes anyone who shares your day-to-day challenges and achievements. This includes your whānau, friends and support group. They can help you manage day-to-day and help you access other health professionals and services.
Talk to them openly and honestly about your pain and ask for help when you need it. This may be as simple as a lift to your doctor’s appointment or doing a load of laundry. At other times, you may need them to be there to chat when you’re feeling sad or anxious. Most people are very happy to help when they know how to be of assistance.