Spire Dunedin Hospital has established a reputation for medical excellence across a broad range of services and this is reflected in the expertise provided by its pain management specialists who treat patients with many types of chronic pain.
Why do we have pain?
Pain can be a sign that something in our body is wrong. There are various types of pain that can differ in the parts of the body that they affect. The intensity of the pain and its duration can also vary. In addition, the way we react to pain is very personal and can vary significantly from person to person.
Acute pain is usually caused by something easily identifiable such as an injury, occurs suddenly and lasts for a short period of time. Many forms of acute pain indicate an underlying problem and the treatment of this problem will relieve the pain. This is obvious in conditions such as broken bones, appendicitis etc.
Appropriate diagnosis and management is the key to relieving acute pain. The drugs that can help acute pain are painkillers like paracetamol, anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and other drugs like codeine; severe acute pain may need stronger drugs such as morphine.
Pain lasting for three months or more and recurring over long periods is regarded as chronic pain. This can sometimes occur even after the initial acute problem has been properly treated. Chronic pain can occur anywhere in your body ranging from mild discomfort to very severe pain that can impede your day-to-day activities. Early detection, assessment and appropriate management could prevent much chronic pain.
So that we can provide appropriate pain management, it is important that your pain is fully assessed by a practitioner in pain medicine so that the correct treatments can be recommended. Evidence suggests that early treatment is important in preventing chronic pain.
Common chronic pain conditions
- spinal pain neck pain, thoracic pain and low back pain
- headache and facial pain
- abdominal pain
- pelvic pain
- nerve pain (neuropathic pain)
- pain due to decreased blood supply (vascular pain)
- pain secondary to diabetes
- pain secondary to shingles (postherpetic pain)
- post-surgical and post traumatic pain
- pain after amputation
- joint pain
- chest wall pain
- cancer pain
Many pains involve the musculoskeletal or nervous system. Pain specialists work in close liaison with consultant neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, psychologists and occupational therapists. It is quite likely that your care will be shared between these specialists.
Pain problems related to gastrointestinal tract or cardio-vascular system also occur and again your pain specialists would co-ordinate treatment with these specialties.
Diagnosis and treatment
If you are experiencing chronic pain the first step is to try to identify the underlying cause.
Following referral from your GP, your case will be reviewed by the most appropriate pain medicine specialist. You will have an initial consultation and may undergo various diagnostic tests including blood tests, CT and MRI scanning. A treatment plan will then be offered in accordance with the specific cause and symptoms.