Chronic pain, also known as persistent pain, is diagnosed when pain persists for more than three months. Approximately 1 in 5 persons suffer from some form of chronic pain. Although we do not know the exact figures for Malta, an estimated 100 million persons suffer from chronic pain in Europe.
Chronic pain is a very complex phenomenon made up of biological, psychological and social components. Since it does not reflect tissue injury, it can become a severe burden for patients and their carers. Because of the complexity of this condition, a multidisciplinary approach is important to target the various components and help patients manage their condition in the best possible way.
There is no magic pill or drug that will help patients suffering from chronic pain. This complex condition needs to be managed by a team of professionals working together to provide integrated health care. Patients are informed about all the appropriate therapeutic options that could help their condition and a plan for quick and effective pain relief is discussed.
A consultation for a chronic pain usually lasts 30-45minutes, sometimes longer. During your first visit with the doctor, you will be asked to talk about your condition, when it started, what professionals you visited and what treatments have been tried. You will be asked a lot of questions about the pain and how it is affecting your life. Any past medical issues, surgeries, drugs or medications that have been taken should be noted. You will be asked about sleep patterns, diet, exercise, past traumas and mental health problems. A social history sometimes also gives important clues on what could be aggravating the pain.
Once the history-taking is complete, some tests are carried out to assess the severity of the pain and how it is affecting the various activities in your life. Anxiety and depression levels are measured using a special tool and all results are recorded for future reference.
After the interview, the doctor will examine you, paying special attention to the areas of your body where the pain is more severe. He may also listen to your heart and lungs and check your blood pressure to get a better indication of how the pain is affecting you.
Following the examination, the doctor will discuss the probable diagnosis and let you know if there is any need for further tests. In some cases, the necessary tests would have already been completed. If any investigations are necessary, the doctor will guide you on how you need to go about getting them done.
Once the diagnosis is clear, treatment options are discussed with the patient. Very often, management of all types of chronic pain requires a team approach. The doctor will go through the consultation and point out areas in the patient’s life which need to be improved.
The patient’s diet, exercise and sleep patterns are discussed. The doctor will let you know about the various forms of pain relief which are available and which are most likely to help. Once a plan is agreed upon, you are given a list of the team members which could help you with your condition. You may also opt to enroll your own personal health care professional (e.g. physiotherapist, nutritionist) and allow them to liaise with the doctor to maximize pain management. A follow-up appointment is given and the doctor’s contact details are given to you to refer to in case of any difficulties.
If you need an assessment for chronic pain, kindly contact us for an appointment or book online. You may be asked a few questions about your condition over the phone in order to allocate sufficient time for a comprehensive assessment.