Story by Mimi Greenwood Knight
Chronic pain can color your entire outlook on life. For 50 million Americans, each day is measured by how much or how little pain they experienced. If you or someone you love suffers from chronic pain because of arthritis, cancer treatments, fibromyalgia, an injury, or something else, the right pain management team can make all the difference. A pain management center or clinic is a healthcare facility that specializes in the diagnosis and management of chronic pain. While some facilities specialize in specific diagnoses or in pain related to a particular region of the body, others are more comprehensive.
Ask your primary care physician to recommend a pain management clinic and team that advocates a multidisciplinary approach. You don’t want someone who will throw a prescription at your pain but a team that will empower and educate you to take an active role in managing your pain and regaining control of your life. Ask your family, friends, and other healthcare workers if they know of a pain management program that takes a holistic approach by treating the entire person, not just their pain.
Visit each clinic’s website and study their practice philosophy and their specific focus. Do they employ a team approach? What professionals are included on that team? Pain management teams often include psychologists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists who partner with a pain management doctor and nurses to create a unique pain management plan for each patient.
Your pain management team will become a part of your life and the life of your family. Call a few clinics. Ask about how involved you’ll be in your treatment. Will your spouse, caregiver, or family members be welcome and included in your appointments? Visit your top choices and see what the practice vibe is. Is this a place where you’ll want to spend time? Are you treated with respect? Does the doctor take time getting to know you and your medical history?
Ask how doctors handle their relationships with patients and how the clinic staff communicates with them. Do they emphasize patient education and empowerment? Do they respect your opinions and desires when it comes to your treatment plan? Do they advocate natural remedies over and above pharmaceuticals? It’s important to consider the short-term and long-term effects of working with each type of medical approach and choose the one that makes you most comfortable —physically and emotionally.
The final decision as to whether to seek help at a pain management clinic— and which one — is ultimately yours. The right pain management professionals can become an invaluable asset, your cheerleaders, teachers, and advocates walking beside you toward a shared goal of regaining function and improving your quality of life.