When my GP first suggested I attend my local pain management clinic, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I went scouring the Internet and couldn’t find much information there either. I hate the unknown, so I thought I’d write a little about my experiences, so if you’re reading this and you don’t know what to expect from visiting a pain clinic, hopefully a little information from me will comfort you.
Please note, this is in the UK, under the NHS.
When I was referred to the pain clinic, it took a couple of weeks for me to hear from them, and when I did, what I received was a little pack in the post, which contained a form to fill out with some basic information about myself and a pain questionnaire, which included things like colouring in where the pain was on a drawing of a body and rating my pain on a scale of one to ten. Some of the questions asked what made my pain worse and what made my pain better. I have to admit now that I was in a very bad place mentally when I was referred to the pain clinic – I was newly diagnosed and I was very depressed and scared being faced with my new life with trigeminal neuralgia – so I rated my pain as a twenty out of ten and wrote that everything possible made my pain worse and nothing made it better and submitted a very brief, dramatic form back to them. Unsurprisingly, I was called up immediately upon receipt, just a couple of days later, and invited in for their next available appointment, even though the standard waiting time was several weeks, even months, because someone was very worried about my mental state.. and I was very grateful that someone cared enough to rush me through.
When I arrived at my local (but still three buses away!) pain clinic, I was assigned to a specialist for trigeminal neuralgia. Just by sheer luck and coincidence, she also had trigeminal neuralgia too! I imagine that they had several different staff for different types of pain. As I was sat in the waiting room, I was facing a lady in a wheelchair missing both her legs. My appointment actually took place in in a little back building in a very large hospital. It was, unfortunately, a very beige waiting room in an otherwise colourful hospital!
My first appointment with the pain specialist involved discussing exactly what my pain felt like and this was the first time I feel I was actually listened to (other than by my lovely GP). Out of every doctor I have seen for my pain, no one has understand my pain as well as that lady and I could not be more thankful to her. When I received a copy of the letter she wrote to my GP following that appointment, I broke down into tears, because someone, for the first time, finally understood my pain spot on and all the fighting my GP and I had done had finally been worth it. I was prescribed the correct medication for my pain, given advice and information I could have never found elsewhere and I was sent away feeling better about my situation than ever before.
The second time I attended the pain clinic, I saw the same doctor again, who checked how I was getting on with my medication and suggested I see a psychologist for an assessment, as I was struggling with feelings of depression and struggling to sleep because I was relying so heavily on my night medication.
The third time I visited the pain management clinic was less helpful than I would have liked. This was my visit to meet the psychologist. I was given advice on how to sleep, such as ‘have a nice bath before bed’ and ‘read a book before bed’, when I have trouble with my vision due to the strong medication and I also always have a nice bath before bed.. I can’t say this was the most worthwhile long journey to the hospital! However, I was assessed and it was decided that I needed counselling for my depressed state.
Following this visit, I discharged myself from the pain management clinic to attend a counsellor closer to home and back into the care of my GP. I’d been prescribed the medication I needed, I’d been given some great advice and I feel I’d taken what I needed from the appointments. However, the travel, which took a couple of hours either way, was very draining for me and I didn’t want to do this travel again for regular counselling sessions.
I’m sure everyone’s visits to the pin clinic are specifically tailored to their different types of pain, but I’m hoping maybe my journey can give you a rough idea of what the appointments entail, because I literally didn’t have a clue what to expect when I walked into the first appointment! Overall, the experience I had there was very good and I gained so much from going, especially from my first appointment.
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