Identification and Management of Chronic Pain in Primary Care: a Review

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Feb;18(2):22. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0659-9.


Chronic pain is a common, complex, and challenging condition, where understanding the biological, social, physical and psychological contexts is vital to successful outcomes in primary care. In managing chronic pain the focus is often on promoting rehabilitation and maximizing quality of life rather than achieving cure. Recent screening tools and brief intervention techniques can be effective in helping clinicians identify, stratify and manage both patients already living with chronic pain and those who are at risk of developing chronic pain from acute pain. Frequent assessment and re-assessment are key to ensuring treatment is appropriate and safe, as well as minimizing and addressing side effects. Primary care management should be holistic and evidence-based (where possible) and incorporates both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches, including psychology, self-management, physiotherapy, peripheral nervous system stimulation, complementary therapies and comprehensive pain-management programmes. These may either be based wholly in primary care or supported by appropriate specialist referral.

Keywords: Chronic pain; General practice; Multidisciplinary; Pharmacological; Primary care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis*
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Physical Examination
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Care