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Pain Clinics and Pain Management Programmes

clinic consultation

PainSupport is often asked what is the difference between Pain Clinics and Pain Management Programmes and what each can offer.

Pain Clinics

Pain Clinics offer a wide range of treatment including drug therapy, nerve blocks, manipulation, exercise, some complementary therapies and access to Pain Management Programmes (PMPs) to teach you self-help skills to control and relieve your pain.

If you are interested in being referred to a Pain Clinic, talk to your own doctor or your consultant and ask what kinds of treatment you are likely to be offered at the Pain Clinic. Remember, it's your choice and your body. You don't have to have anything anyone suggests to you without finding out everything about it first of all. Discuss what the treatment will involve, what the likely benefits will be and also whether there are any risks or side effects involved.

To find a local Pain Clinic, you could telephone the hospitals in your area and enquire whether or not they have a Pain Clinic, most will. Then you could ask your pain doctor or consultant if you could be referred.

Pain Management Programmes

On a Pain Management Programme (PMP) you will learn how to control your pain yourself. You will learn about 'pacing' your activities, correct breathing,relaxation, positive thinking skills, exercise and many of the other skills that can be found on the painSupport website on the Pain Relief pages.

To find a local Pain Management Programme, you could telephone the hospitals in your area and enquire whether or not they run a PMP. Then you could ask your pain doctor or consultant if you could be referred on to a Pain Management Course as well as, or instead of, a Pain Clinic.

Expert Patient Programmes

You can also join a local Expert Patient Programme group without referral from your doctor.

There is also an excellent online Expert Patient Course that you can do from home.

ArthritisCare also run local self-management courses.

A Patient's Experience of a Pain Management Programme

Ever wondered what happens on a Pain Management Programme? Yvette attended INPUT at St Thomas' Hospital, London.


Yvette writes:

"Regular relaxation is just one part of the INPUT armoury for fighting pain; during the 4-week residential course a broad range of talks and discussions are led by doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. Some are informal lectures, for example on the physiology of pain, bone structure and medication. Others are more practical - learning to stretch and exercise, practising lifting safely, even a mock session with an ironing board. Psychologists lead sessions on the emotional effects of pain, also broadening out to topics like depression and helping family members to understand the condition.

Although INPUT begins by looking at the group's experiences so far (in my group of 11 people, experience of pain ranged from 3 years to 15 years) it quickly moves on to an active, forward-thinking set of techniques aimed at restoring lifestyles, hobbies and maybe even eventually the occupations many of us have lost. The principle of 'pacing' - timing what you can manage of an activity and then grading progress slowly - is given a lot of attention. Everyone gets a timer and you quickly get used to beepers going off in sessions; when I started, my sitting tolerance was 2 minutes 10 seconds, so I was doing a lot of moving about, but nobody seemed to mind.

This can be hard: measuring out your favourite hobby in rations of minutes and seconds can feel a bit like trying to eat a Chinese banquet with a pair of cocktail sticks. But many of us know all about the alternative - going all out on, say, the gardening then spending the next two weeks in bed. The INPUT ethos is to smooth out the peaks and troughs on the pain sufferer's activity graph and, in making things more consistent, gradually increasing what can be managed.

So, does it work? Well, four months on and I'm still getting the hang of it: I'm stronger and more flexible, I worry a lot less and enjoy myself more; I've yet to get out and about as much as I'd like and I'm still capable of making a mistake that will put me horizontal for a few days; but I've now got a 'set back plan' for this contingency, and a group of peers I can ring up and grumble at.

I still go to my local Backcare hydrotherapy session on a Tuesday night. This week Louise, who hasn't seen me since INPUT, is the physio on duty. "Wow, I didn't recognise you. You fairly bounced in here!" Hmm... come to think of it, I've had quite a few comments lately. That's got to be a good start.


This article first appeared in the Autumn 2001 issue of the PainSupport Newsletter. Please note that the Programme offered currently will be similar but may not be identical to Yvette's description.


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