We have all felt pain at one time or another – a bruise, a broken bone, a toothache, a migraine, a stiff neck. But for some 6 million Canadians, pain is an everyday reality. For those who have tried medications and treatments, but still find no lasting relief, a pain clinic may be the next option.

What do pain clinics do?

Pain clinics are specialized treatment centres focused on the understanding and management of pain. Pain clinics can help those living with many types of chronic pain, from headaches and migraines to cancer pain, from chronic back or neck pain to pain associated with injuries or conditions like fibromyalgia.

The goals of treatment at pain clinics include:

  • helping you get back to your normal life activities
  • boosting your strength, stamina, and flexibility
  • teaching you ways to better manage stress in your life
  • reducing your reliance on pain medications
  • improving your independent self-care skills

What types of treatments are provided at pain clinics?

Pain clinics employ an array of specialists to help administer a variety of treatments. You may work together with any of a number of pain specialists. These can include doctors, anaesthesiologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, surgeons, psychologists who can comprehensively deal with the far-reaching effects of pain.

Though treatments vary from clinic to clinic, some of the common approaches include:

  • physical therapy
  • biofeedback
  • pain-relieving injections and nerve blocks
  • implantable pain-relieving devices
  • medication management
  • relaxation training
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • acupuncture

Pain clinics that provide a variety of these services are sometimes called multidisciplinary pain treatment centres.

How do you get access to a pain clinic's services?

Some clinics require referrals from a doctor, while others take in new patients without referral. Ask your doctor about pain clinics in your area or contact a clinic directly. The Canadian Pain Coalition provides an updated list of pain clinics throughout the country. You can access their list at www.canadianpaincoalition.ca (link opens as PDF). Wait times for publicly funded pain clinics can be as long as a year or more.