Working With a Pain Management Team

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If you experience pain that persists in spite of treatment, or you feel that your doctor cannot give you the help you need, you might consider working with a pain management team. Many hospitals and medical centers now have pain management programs — also called palliative care programs — staffed by a range of health care professionals who specialize in assessing and treating pain. Although the exact makeup of pain management teams can vary from center to center, members may include:

  • physicians
  • nurses
  • physical therapists
  • social workers
  • psychiatrists
  • complementary and holistic medicine practitioners
  • chaplains
  • pharmacists
  • nutritionists
  • dietitians

Keep in mind that palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Hospice care is reserved for people facing the end of life (typically within 6 months), and it focuses on improving quality of life rather than curing the disease. Palliative care is for anyone who needs help dealing with the physical pain, as well as the stress and anxiety, that a serious illness can cause. It is given right along with active treatment for the disease.

In addition to asking your doctors and nurses for information about pain management programs, you can contact hospitals or medical centers in your area or visit the Center to Advance Palliative Care, which has a list of providers by state. Once you find a program, your team will work with you to develop a care plan that meets your individual needs. These needs may include managing physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia. Your team also can provide help and resources for dealing with emotional, practical, and spiritual concerns.

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