What is pain?

Pain has many aspects and cannot be compared with a symptom such as fever. According the definition of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is defined as 'An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage'. Within this definition, both the somatic and psychocognitive aspects of pain are emphasised, since pain is also described as an experience.  This IASP definition corresponds seamlessly with the biopsychosocial model of pain.

Both the IASP definition and the biopsychosocial model of pain simultaneously indicate that they apply to all kinds of pain, irrespective of the aetiology of such pain. This means that the biopsychosocial model of pain does not only apply to non-specific pain complaints, but also to acute pain, postoperative pain, cancer pain and pain due to a specific diagnosis. Primary pain preserves its signal function, particularly when red flags have to be excluded in a patient suffering from pain.

Since there are many factors (somatic, psychological, social) that can influence the seriousness of the pain, patients at our outpatient pain clinic are always evaluated with regard to all these factors.

First of all, the somatic reason for why the pain is present is evaluated.  In this connection, the patient is always examined physically, neurologically and orthopaedically and, when necessary, additional examinations, such as X-rays, scans and neurophysiological tests are also carried out.

In addition, the psychological and social factors influencing a patient's pain will also be reviewed. This is carried out by means of pain questionnaires which the patient will have filled in prior to his first visit to our outpatient pain clinic.

Since factors that can influence the seriousness of the pain can be present in several areas, it is possible that a patient will have to be treated by more than one medical discipline (anaesthesiology/pain management, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, psychology, psychiatry, pain rehabilitation). This is known as the multidisciplinary treatment of pain, and is one of the characteristics of the UPCM outpatient pain clinic.

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