An estimated 50 million Americans live with chronic pain. If you have tried dealing with your pain on your own but the results have been ineffective, you may want to consider visiting a pain management clinic. Pain management clinicians are specially trained in diagnosing and managing chronic pain and helping those who suffer from it take an active part in developing strategies to manage their pain and regain control of their lives.
The team at a pain management clinic is generally composed of health professionals from many different clinical backgrounds (including medical doctors, chiropractic physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, and acupuncturists, for example), and their approaches often combine traditional medicine with complementary and alternative medicine.
Your treatment at a pain management clinic will be tailored to your meet your specific needs and may include a combination of the following therapies:
- Pain medications – Pharmaceuticals such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, corticosteroids and opioid medications, which are typically used for short-term pain relief.
- Antidepressants – Depression can sometimes cause pain or exacerbate existing pain. Antidepressants may also make it easier to sleep, which is often difficult in cases of chronic pain.
- Injections– A local anesthetic, which may or may not be combined with a corticosteroid, may be injected into the area around a nerve root or into a muscle to temporarily relieve pain and inflammation. These are not usually effective in the long term, however.
- Chiropractic care – Studies have shown that chiropractic care can be one of the most effective ways of relieving chronic pain, particularly in the lower back and neck. Chiropractic adjustments remove spinal subluxations that may be creating pressure on the nerves. Chiropractic has been demonstrated to provide more effective and longer-lasting pain relief for back and neck pain than corticosteroid injections and generally carries fewer risks than drugs or surgery.
- Physical therapy – In order to decrease pain while increasing function, a physical therapist may use such techniques as aquatic therapy, deep muscle massage and ultrasound.
- Acupuncture – An ancient Chinese therapy that uses very fine needles inserted at specific points on your body’s “energy meridians” to reduce pain.
- Electrical stimulation – A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine works to manage pain by sending electrical signals to your nerves through your skin, which modulate or suppress the pain signals being sent to your brain.
- Surgery – In rare cases in which no other treatments have worked, surgery is sometimes recommended.
- Stress reduction training – Pain often becomes worse when a person is stressed. Learning stress reduction techniques such as meditation and biofeedback can significantly reduce chronic pain.
- Psychotherapy – Constant pain can increase feelings of anger, sadness and despair. Learning how to deal with the psychological aspect of your pain can help you succeed in day-to-day activities and maintain important relationships while also helping you manage your pain.
A good pain management clinic will involve you closely in the development of a treatment program, and it is particularly important to feel comfortable with your healthcare providers in this setting. The clinic should monitor your progress and follow up with you to ensure that the treatment designed for you is effective and continues to meet your needs as your condition evolves.