As this is National Pain Week it’s a good time to go over and update our knowledge on the important considerations in treating and managing persistent pain. As this is an evolving field and the better pain is understood, the better it can be managed.
There is this great video – ‘Tame the Beast’ put together by Professor Lorimer Moseley, a leading neuroscientist and physiotherapy educator, on how pain scientists are now understanding pain better and how patients can influence their pain levels by a better understanding and altering the way they think about their pain.
The organisers of the National Pain Week, Chronic Pain Australia, have some useful resources for patients with persistent pain. This site provides helpful information on the various types of pain, relevant physiology and the treatment options that are available. Below is some of their useful information on considerations and explanations of the roles of various health professionals that are involved in pain treatment and management.
Deciding who to include on your team
The following list will give you some information about the different kinds of health care professionals that many people with chronic pain will see.
General practitioner (GP)
Your GP or local doctor is usually your main health care provider. He or she is often the first point of contact for someone with ongoing pain. A good GP is someone who:
• you feel comfortable with and trust – you feel you can ask him or her anything and you have confidence in what they tell you.
• understands chronic pain.
• is willing to really listen to you and spend time talking to you about what you are experiencing, how pain is affecting your life, and what your treatment options are.
• will communicate with other members of your health care team, where appropriate, so that you receive co-ordinated health care.
There are a number of different medical specialists that you may be referred to for diagnosis and/or pain management, depending on the type of pain you have. These can include, but are not limited to:
A neurologist – a doctor who specialises in the functioning and diseases of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system.
A neurosurgeon – specialises in, amongst other things, nerves that branch out from the spine. If needed, this kind of doctor will perform surgery on the spine or spinal cord.
An orthopaedic surgeon – specialises in diagnosis and surgical treatment of bone, muscle and joint problems.
Pain specialists – doctors who have specialised training in the diagnosis and management of pain problems.
Rheumatologist – a doctor who specialises in processes that involve joints and soft tissues, including multi-system auto-immune diseases, as well as chronic pain (under the heading ”fibromyalgia syndrome”, FMS) and chronic fatigue (CFS). They help investigate complex, often ambiguous medical processes.
Allied health professionals
Allied health professionals are people who provide a variety of services that may help you with different aspects of living with chronic pain. They can include:
Physiotherapists – can provide advice on exercise, posture and ways to relieve pain, as well as use treatments to maintain joint and muscle movement.
Psychologists – can teach you different ways of thinking about and coping with pain.
Rehabilitation counsellors – can help you with employment and retraining issues. Rehabilitation Counsellors can help you navigate your way through complex rehabilitation systems.
Social workers – can provide support and help with different aspects of your life that may be affected by your pain, such as your family life, income and housing, and other life problems.
Occupational therapists (OT) – can help you adapt your environment and show you ways to make activities of daily living, such as housework and personal care, easier, and provide advice on useful aids or equipment.