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Patients referred to a pain management clinic: beliefs, expectations and priorities


Nick Allcock: e-mail:


Title. Patients referred to a pain management clinic: beliefs, expectations and priorities

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore patients’ pain-beliefs and emotions at the point of referral to a pain clinic, their expectations of the clinic and their priorities for improvement in aspects of their lives affected by pain.

Background.  Chronic pain is a common experience and, although the percentage of people with pain referred to pain clinics is increasing, they often experience complex journeys through the healthcare system. Patients’ beliefs about pain have been shown to influence their experience of pain and treatment outcomes, with a focus on the organic cause of pain reported.

Methods.  Three focus groups were convened with 18 participants. Ten statements about pain were distributed to each participant and ranked according to their priorities. The data were collected in 2002–2003.

Findings.  The participants’ beliefs were dominated by the search for a firm diagnosis and cure. Participants held three main beliefs; that the cause of the pain must be established; that other people do not believe in the pain of a person without a firm diagnosis; and that painkillers are a way of ‘fobbing you off’. Participants had little knowledge and few concrete expectations of the pain clinic. Their main priorities for improvement were ‘less pain’, ‘some pain free times’, and being able to do more ‘everyday things’.

Conclusion.  Staff delivering pain management services must understand patients’ beliefs and expectations and explain their own perspectives in order to provide a sound basis for working together.

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