Treating Chronic Pain

People with chronic mechanical neck or back pain, whiplash associated disorders, complex regional pain, headache, chronic post-traumatic pain, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia constitute the majority of those I see my specialized practice.

These categories of pain may overlap. They are all incompletely understood and difficult to treat.  Although research studies can be found showing the benefits of all kinds of treatments, from drugs to acupuncture, no sure-fire complete cures have ever been found for most kinds of chronic pain. No matter how well you or someone you know responded to your surgeon, G.P., specialist, chiropractor, naturopath, acupuncturist etc., many others fail to get adequate relief.

Medical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that patients get better results when they get different kinds of treatment at the same time. Combining different kinds of treatment gives better results than any single therapy alone. This kind of treatment is called multidisciplinary because it may involve psychological, physical, pharmacological and surgical interventions. The greater success of this kind of approach makes sense when you consider that the cause of pain may involve emotional, cognitive and physical factors.

The complex nature of pain suggests that all the factors playing a role in someone’s pain need to be assessed and treated for best results. This may require that different health care providers with different areas of expertise contribute to care including psychotherapists, physical therapists and physicians. For example, reducing back pain with massage, drugs or acupuncture may be good, but adding instruction in body mechanics, strengthening muscles and reducing distress would seem more complete.

Pain patients are bombarded by competing claims for the superiority of one kind of treatment over another. It would be wise to remember that no single kind of treatment has ever been shown 100% effective for any kind of chronic pain. Furthermore, the fact that pain involves complex interactions of different systems of the body and brain makes it highly unlikely that any one treatment, be it physical, psychological or pharmacological will ever be enough. Finally, because our understanding of pain remains incomplete, we still don’t know enough to cure it. Beware of those who promise to do so.

Chronic pain researchers have called out for more multidisciplinary care, pointing to its demonstrable superiority.  The group pain program we offer that addresses physical, emotional and cognitive factors in pain is a partial response to that call. It is also being answered by hospitals and other clinics. More are needed.