Chronic Pain Management – Why you need a multidisciplinary team of health professionals

Written by Cathryn Morgan


The Report on Pain 2011, commissioned by Canadian Pain Coalition, explores the patient journey of Canadians living with chronic pain. “Twenty-one percent of those living with chronic pain waited two years or more for a diagnosis and only fifty-four percent of those with a diagnosis have a treatment plan.” The good news is that ninety-one percent of those with a treatment plan play an active role in their pain treatment plan.

I am fortunate that within ten months of my car accident I had a diagnosis from a physical medicine rehabilitation specialist (physiatrist). I have chronic myofascial pain and neuropathic pain in cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas as a result of a car accident. I am at my best when I have time to rest, vary, pace and modify my daily activities as needed, go for regular treatments (2-4 a week), and do my daily core exercise program, stretching, cardio, breathing techniques, bodyscan and meditation. This in essence has become my full-time job.

My multidisciplinary team of health professionals has taught me that the more you understand your pain the better you are able to manage it. On the surface, my team has provided physical treatment and taught me pain management strategies and coping skills, but just as importantly, they have encouraged and facilitated my moving forward physically and emotionally along my chronic pain journey.

My health care team includes a neurologist, physiatrist, musculoskeletal pain specialist for Prolotherapy and nerve blocks, medical consultant for supplements, psychologist, an IMS physiotherapist specializing in treating chronic pain using Intra-Muscular Stimulation, a physiotherapist specializing in treating connective tissue using osteopathic cranial techniques and myofascial release techniques, and a registered massage therapist specializing in working with chronic pain patients who also incorporates Quantum Touch energy work into her practice. If you don’t have chronic pain you may have never heard of these treatments. If you do have chronic pain you should research them!

If you are unfamiliar with IMS physiotherapy check out www.istop.org. IMS physiotherapy is specifically for the treatment of chronic pain of neuropathic origin. The objective of IMS treatment is to decrease pain by desensitizing supersensitive areas, and to release trigger points and the persistent pull of shortened muscles.

I am often asked just how do you cope with your chronic pain? Lessons learned along my chronic pain journey:

  1. Get a referral to a physical medicine rehabilitation specialist (physiatrist), pain specialist, neurologist, and/or pain clinic. It is very important for you, and for your car accident insurance claim, to have an actual diagnosis of chronic pain that goes beyond the initial injury that was treated.

  2. Learn all you can about your pain condition, and how the pain affects you. Keeping a pain journal for reflection helps to spot patterns of what works well and what needs to be modified. It can also be a record of fluctuating pain levels, and of how much your life has changed.

  3. Explore various treatment options. There are physiotherapy and massage therapy treatments and techniques that specifically help with chronic pain conditions, and psychologists that specialize in working with chronic pain patients.

  4. Be your own advocate. You need to be able to describe your pain to health professionals and independent assessors, and explain how your treatments help you cope on a daily basis and what happens when you do not have them.

  5. Your family and friends may provide a strong network of physical and emotional support. Just ensure that it is not a one way street, and that you are there for them too.

Treatment for chronic pain hurts – you go into the pain and through the pain and out the other side. During treatment you as a patient are focusing, breathing, visualizing, and learning to use and adapt different movement patterns, and create better body maps for the brain. With treatment you need to work collaboratively with your health professionals, and then you learn what to do to keep improving and moving forward.

What you do to manage your pain doesn’t replace treatment, and the opposite is also true in that what is done to you cannot replace what you must learn to do for yourself.

Cathryn Morgan © 2010 All Rights Reserved.

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