So, you’ve got a bad back. Or a troublesome knee. Maybe arthritis. And it’s been causing you pain for a long period of time. How do you treat it? No doubt you’ve been to see your doctor about it and they’ve likely given you some recommendations and perhaps medications. But what if those aren’t working so well for you?
There is another service you can access - pain clinics.
If you’re now wondering “what is a pain clinic?” and how it can help your chronic pain, fear not, we are here to help. If you already know, then we hope that some of the other information - and words from pharmacist Mark Hopkins - will be useful.
What is a pain clinic?
If you’re struggling with your current medication or are looking for advice on lifestyle changes you can make, then they are an excellent place to seek advice. If you’re in the UK, some are run by the NHS and you can be referred to them, but others are private.
They can offer a range of services, including medication and injections for pain relief, as well as physiotherapy, exercise, psychological therapy, complementary therapy and electrotherapy. Pain clinics are not standardised, so if you are considering going to see one then checking ahead might be a good idea to make sure you know what to expect.
Where can I find a pain clinic?
Because they come in both NHS and private flavours, it really depends on your local area. Some are based in community health centres, others are independent, while more and more pharmacies are beginning to offer them. We’d recommend having a quick search online or asking your GP or pharmacist - they might tell you that it’s right next door!
The Nuffield Trust also has a handy tool for searching for pain services in your area.
What can I expect at a pain clinic?
Help, advice and resources! All of which is focused on improving your quality of life.
The clinic’s team might vary: some have full interdisciplinary teams, others are pharmacist led, while some are run by pain specialists. Whoever you see, you can be sure that they will have the expertise to help you.
You’ll start with a consultation to get an understanding of your situation, what it is that you want to achieve and how that can be made to happen. This might mean being given different painkillers, or perhaps finding an alternative form of treatment.
As an example, Mark Hopkins, the owner and head pharmacist of Hopwoods Pharmacy in Llanedeyrn, Wales, runs a pain clinic where he offers 20-minutes consultations, during which he discusses with people how to improve or reduce their chronic pain and offers a free electrotherapy treatment.
Aside from treatments - whether medications or otherwise - pain clinics can also help you develop a management plan to keep your pain controlled and help you stay active. This usually involves exercises that you can do at home and may include treatments that can be easily administered at home, such as NuroKor Lifetech’s bioelectric therapy.
How can pain clinics help with chronic pain?
Now that we’ve looked at what a pain clinic is, where to find one and what you can expect, let’s return to how they can help with chronic pain.
Chronic pain is generally defined as pain that has lasted for 12 weeks/3 months despite treatment or medication. An astonishing 35% - 51% of the UK population suffers from chronic pain, with back pain, headaches and arthritis the most common.
Obviously, the impact that chronic pain can have on people’s lives varies. Many are able to carry on with minor adjustments or over-the-counter painkillers, but, for severe pain, opioids are often the only option and can come with significant side effects.
Severe side effects aren’t something anyone wants to deal with, and some people might find them worse than the pain to start with. If this is the case, or you are just looking for more help with managing pain, then going to a pain clinic may be the right option for you as they can help you find alternative ways of managing pain and cut down on painkillers.
Do pain clinics work?
While we can’t speak for every clinic, we did manage to ask Mark Hopkins to share some of the successes that he has seen with patients.
“There was a patient who presented with a prescription for trial medication for migraine. They were just coming off the back of a hemiplegic attack that left partial paralysis of the face and intense pain. They were offered pain treatment with a mibody and within 15 minutes the pain score had gone from 9 to 0. The person decided to come back a couple days later to purchase a device, after which I heard nothing for three months. Three months later, they contacted me to say they were very grateful for the recommendation and that they were now able to travel further than 45 minutes from the house, which they hadn’t been able to do for 10 years. They’d even booked their first foreign holiday in 6 years!”
A not uncommon issue that Mark sees people for is arthritis. One person, who suffered from arthritis in their hands, managed to cut a loaf of bread and comb their hair for the first time in three years after attending Mark’s pain clinic.
If you want to hear more from Mark about his experience running a pain clinic, more success stories, and what drove him to start one in the first place, have a listen to him on The Bioelectronics Podcast.
You can also watch Bernadette Brown talk about the results she has seen at Cadham Pharmacy Health Centre in Glenrothes, Scotland, where she’s owner and head pharmacist.
Ultimately, regardless of whether they offer NuroKor technology or not, pain clinics are a valuable addition to health services. Their ability to offer alternative pain management options that can reduce the reliance on powerful painkillers and support people to maintain their quality of life is invaluable.
If you’ve had a good experience with a pain clinic, let us know! We always love hearing about people who are overcoming pain and living better lives.