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The Multidisciplinary Approach to Chronic Pain


What does a multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain mean?  This is when health care professionals from multiple fields address the needs of the patient rather than only one medical provider treating a patient.

In the US, many people only treat pain by seeing their primary care physician and/or a visit to the emergency room.  This often does little to alleviate chronic pain. These visits may contribute to the chronic pain sufferer feeling marginalized or without hope for their symptoms.

A multidisciplinary approach can be viewed as a more holistic way to treat a person.

In the US, the primary care physician is the first medical care provider that a patient will see. Primary care physicians are limited in options  to aid in treatment of pain.  The patient will usually be prescribed pain medication by their primary care physician and sent to obtain studies or labs. Labs and medical imaging may aid in diagnosing but will not help the patient in achieving pain reduction or improving quality of life.

Many patients claim that medication poorly controls their pain.  This poorly controlled pain will inevitably lead to a return visit to the primary care physician or a visit to the emergency room which can take a toll on the health care system.

At some point, if the primary care physician cannot resolve the patient’s pain the patient may be referred to others to help either reduce the pain, treat the cause of the pain or other medical practitioners that will help the patient deal with the chronic pain. However, a patient may need to be their own advocate obtain the help they need.

A multidisciplinary team will be unique to each patient.  Why? Each patient will need a different strategy depending on the cause of the patient’s pain.  Other factors that need to be considered is the patient’s support system at home.  Studies indicate that patient’s who are isolated will often experience greater pain.  Interestingly,  a patient’s belief system, has been noted to decrease pain.  Some patients have a high social or secular expectation in the community which makes it difficult for them to focus on their recovery as much of their life may be devoted to the care of others.  Patients in this situation may need emotional support from those outside of their social group.   Some chronic pain patients are also caregivers of another relative suffering severe illness or death and may also need emotional support.  This is why most chronic pain suffers have found that the help of a team of professionals best addresses their needs.

A multidisciplinary team may include physical therapists, physicians who are specialists, psychologists and if necessary occupational therapists.  Many chronic pain suffers include chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists as part of their team.

The primary care physician will still be a member of the team and may aid the chronic pain sufferer with pharmacological intervention.  Medications such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medication, and anti-depressants will be prescribed through him.

A medical report entitled, Management of low back pain in computer users: A multidisciplinary approach, was published in 2012. Of 44 patients with low back pain, 22 were treated treated with one medical provider and the other 22 with a team of medical providers.  The study indicated that those patients treated by a team of professionals were able to work more and use less sick leave for medical issues.  Those treated by a multidisciplinary team also described better quality of life than those only treated by one medical provider.

Sadly, health care coverage and insurance issues may play a large role in the availability and support a chronic pain patient will be able to obtain.

Some of my clients who are injured in a life altering event have become chronic pain suffers. Others have been diagnosed with RSD. I also have clients who were already experiencing chronic pain due to disease, age or a pre-existing trauma that worsens after an accident or slip and fall.

If you are without health care coverage that does not mean that you cannot obtain medical treatment from a multidisciplinary team after a collision.  Many medical providers are willing to work with accident victims on a lien basis.

If you would like to discuss your injuries with a personal injury lawyer, please contact my office.  You can do so via my website or simply call us at 916.921.6400.  You can also learn more about by firm, the Edward A Smith Law Offices, by reading reviews on Google, Yelp and AVVO.


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