This article is part of our Monday series How You Can Benefit from Psychological Pain Management. This week we'll look at why comprehensive pain treatment – seeing several different types of health care providers – works best.
The 2 main reasons to work with a health care team are:
1. Pain is complicated and takes a team of experts to help get you better
Pain is complicated and is caused by many different factors. On the one hand, unfortunately, that mean there's usually not 1 simple treatment that will cure you. However, on the positive side, that means there are multiple ways to improve things.
Seeing different types of treaters – doctor, psychiatrist/psychologist, physical therapist, alternative medicine practitioner – lets each person add something to your treatment. Hopefully, when all the treatments add up, you'll be moving towards a better place.
Many times treatments work in concert with each other. For example, anesthetic injections work better is you're not overly anxious or depressed. So treating anxiety can help medication be more effective.
2. Seeing a team lets each provider focus on what (s)he does best
In a sense, this is the flip-side of #1. But to expand on this, it means that you utilize each person on your health care team to your best advantage. Your appointment times are not unlimited, so focusing in on what each person does best means you're taking advantage of the expertise of each person.
As a psychiatrist, I notice this issue most often related to anxiety or depression. If you're seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, you can work on these issues in therapy. This lets you spend time with your medical pain management doctor (neurologist, anesthesiologist, rheumatologist, etc) talking about medications, injections and other procedures, instead of unloading your stress with them. Often they don't have time to do both. So you get appropriate treatment, and they don't get overwhelmed trying to treat problems they're not equiped for.
2 studies that look at comprehensive treatment are:
- "Rational integration of pharmacologic, behavioral and rehabilitation strategies in the treatment of chronic pain," Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2005, 84: S64-76.
- "Efficacy of multidisciplinary pain centers in the treatment of chronic pain," Prog Pain Res Manage 1996, 7:257-74.
Other articles in this series:
- Why comprehensive treatment works better
- Benefits of a psychiatric evaluation
- Treatment of psychiatric symptoms
- Using psychiatric medications for pain
- Learning psychological skills
- Making positive behavioral changes
- Making positive psychological changes
- Benefits of supportive therapy
- Benefits of a pain support group
- New brain-based treatments