What is Pain Management

What is Pain Management

What is Pain Management?

Pain management is a catchall phrase used to describe multiple types of healthcare services for pain. Pain management can include the following types of services:

  • Acute care for injuries and illness

  • Post-surgical pain care

  • End of life, or palliative, care

  • Burn unit services

  • Wound care

  • Chronic pain management

These different types of care are usually considered to fall into three broad categories:

  • Acute pain management

  • Terminal, or palliative, care

  • Chronic pain management

The goal of each type of pain management is the control of pain. However, each type differs in what the ‘control of pain’ looks like.


In acute pain care, the goal is typically to cure the underlying condition that is causing pain.  Sometimes, it is intended to reduce pain until the underlying condition naturally heals.  In palliative care, the goal of pain management is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible until the end of life. In chronic pain management, the goal of care is to maintain pain at a tolerable level and to assist the patient in returning to work or other important life activities.


As patients, it’s important to understand the condition that one has and whether it is:

  • An acute condition, for which a cure or healing can be expected

  • A terminal condition, which has no cure and will bring about the end of life

  • A chronic pain condition, which also has no cure but will not bring about death; patients have chronic conditions throughout the course of their natural life

In general, the type of condition a patient has determines the type of pain management the patient receives.


Typically, pain management employs an interdisciplinary model of care. Interdisciplinary care involves the services from multiple types of providers. Common types of providers that work in pain management are the following:

  • Physicians and surgeons

  • Psychologists

  • Physical therapists

  • Occupational therapists

  • Nurses

  • Social workers

Pain management usually involves some combination of these different types of providers. They work together as a team to provide the best overall care.


In the current healthcare system, chronic pain management itself is pursued in four different ways:

Most of the time, each of these different types of services involves interdisciplinary care.



Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is the executive director of the Institute for Chronic Pain. The Institute for Chronic Pain is an educational and public policy think tank. Its purpose is to bring together thought leaders from around the world in the field of chronic pain rehabilitation and provide academic-quality information that is also approachable to all the stakeholders in the field: patients, their families, generalist healthcare providers, third party payers, and public policy analysts. Its aim is to change the culture of how chronic pain is managed through education and consultation efforts that advocate for the use of empirically supported conceptualizations and treatments of chronic pain. He also blogs at the Institute for Chronic Pain Blog.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 October 2015 15:43

Published on Friday, 27 April 2012 14:00

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