There is wide variation in how pain is managed in the UK. Patients often find themselves caught in a sea of referrals while continuing to suffer with poorly relieved symptoms. The British Pain Society's (BPS) Initial Assessment and Management of Pain care pathway (one of the five new BPS care pathways published by the Map of Medicine(®)) sets out how best to initially manage persistent pain. Patient education and supported self-management is recommended from an early stage. This pathway focuses on the start of the journey of a patient with pain, where a full diagnostic work-up is not yet complete. The pathway covers diverse recommendations such as appropriate content of a pain consultation, the use of clinical decision management tools to aid stratification of care, and resources to support patients to make informed decisions. Recommendations for monitoring of therapeutic effect are also included. Early identification of people at high risk of chronic disability may allow more intensive management, better use of resources, and reduction in disability. Implementation poses significant challenges; more research is needed to determine the most effective interventions. This article highlights practice points for the non-specialist, discusses areas of controversy, and examines the challenges of implementation.
Keywords: chronic pain; pain; pain measurement.