Specialized Pain Clinics in Primary Care: Common Diagnoses, Referral Patterns and Clinical Outcomes - Novel Pain Management Model

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018:1047:89-98. doi: 10.1007/5584_2017_108.


An estimated 19% of the adult population in western countries lives with chronic pain. Pain management lies mainly within the primary care and community setting. We evaluated the outcome of a new model of secondary care clinics, conducted by primary care physicians with specialized training in pain medicine. Data on referral patterns, prevalence of pain diagnosis, and medication consumption were recorded at five secondary pain management clinics in the community setting. In total, 997 patients with pain attended 2,652 visits (average 2.7 visits per patient) during 12 mo. Patients' age ranged from 18 to 92 yr (mean 59 ± 19). Mean pain intensity on the first visit, evaluated by the visual analogue scale was 7.7/10. Myofascial pain syndrome was the most common diagnosis (82%). Treatment included dry needling or trigger point injection (82%), manual myofascial release (23%), and pharmacotherapy (38%). Significant short-term improvement after treatment was reported by 75% of patients, and 72% reported long-term improvement. Four percent were referred to tertiary care pain clinics, 5% were referred to other specialists, and 5% to imaging. Secondary, community-based pain clinics, run by specially-trained primary physicians, demonstrated feasibility. The vast majority of patients referred to the clinics were treated using simple, inexpensive modalities, while sparing referrals to unnecessary consultation visits, imaging tests, and medications.

Keywords: Myofascial pain syndrome; Pain; Primary care physician; Secondary pain management.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Pain / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain Clinics
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Young Adult