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The Advantages of an Interdisciplinary Approach

Pain is an incredibly complex condition, affecting people in a multitude of ways. It can change the way both your brain and your body function, in addition to impacting emotions, relationships and even work. So, it follows that an effective treatment plan must take into account all of these aspects of pain. Incorporating physical therapy, behavioral health and more into a treatment plan, can be an effective way to reduce pain – and its impact on your life.

A Multimodal Methodology

According to a Baylor University Medical Center study, “Although chronic pain initially begins as a biological event – in which electrical and chemical processes occur within the body as a response to noxious stimuli – psychological, social and cultural factors enter into the process.”[1] It’s these types of factors that complicate pain, making it more difficult to treat effectively with a singular approach.

Therefore, as a consequence of these varied factors, which arise from and feed into the experience of pain, “an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates the knowledge and skills of a number of healthcare providers is essential for successful treatment and patient management,” notes the American Pain Society.[2] In other words, different aspects of pain are best treated by different specialists, each of whom is specifically trained to address the issue.

Coordinating Treatment

This interdisciplinary team might differ from patient to patient, depending on their pain type and specific needs. Usually, though, a coordinated approach incorporating a physical therapist and behavioral health provider will be adopted. Providers will co-manage patients with PT and psychologists, in addition to chiropractors, occupational therapists and more, as required by each patient’s condition.

This active collaboration between specialists must take place concurrently, not sequentially. This means that instead of going to specialist, exhausting your treatment options, then moving on to a different specialist – whether that’s a physical therapist, behavioral health provider or chiropractor – all of these providers should engaged at once, actively providing their expertise with the shared goal of reducing your pain and improving your functional ability.

In addition, states the American Pain Society, the patients themselves should be a vital part of the team and “participate as much as possible and give input into the treatment plan and outcome goals.” At each step of the process, and with each individual specialist, the patient’s input on goals and treatment approaches is vital. Put differently, if the plan is something you find doable, with goals tailored to your lifestyle, chances are you’ll have an easier time completing each aspect of your treatment plan – which means better results.

Effectiveness of Interdisciplinary Care

This interdisciplinary approach to pain management can have a multitude of benefits for your care. According the CDC’s recent report on opioids and chronic pain, “Multimodal and multidisciplinary therapies can help reduce pain and improve function more effectively than single modalities.”[3] Other studies show that individuals receiving multidisciplinary treatment for pain may see a lasting reduction in pain intensity, as well as an improvement in psychological well-being, quality of sleep and overall physical functioning.[4] 

Such benefits are leading various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[3]  and the Agency Medical Director’s Group of Washington,[5] to recommend the use of multimodal therapies in the treatment of chronic pain. Heeding these recommendations – especially with the help of the experienced clinicians at Advanced Pain Management – may help you meet, or even exceed, your treatment goals.


[1] Oslund, Sarah, Richard C. Robinson, Timothy C. Clark., John P. Garofalo, Pamela Behnk, Becky Walker, Katherine E. Wlaker, Robert J. Gatchel, Micah Mahaney, and Carl E. Noe. “Long-term Effectiveness of a Comprehensive Pain Management Program: Strengthening the Case for Interdisciplinary Care.” Proceedings (Baylor University Medical Center) 22, no. 3 (July 2009): 211-14.

[2] Turk, Dennis C., Steven P. Stanos, Tonya M. Palermo, Judith A. Paice, Robert N. Jamison, Debra B. Gordon, Penney Cowan, Edward C. Covington, Michael E. Clark. “Interdisciplinary Pain Management.” American Pain Society. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://americanpainsociety.org/uploads/about/position-statements/interdisciplinary-white-paper.pdf

[3] Dowell, Deborah, Tamara M. Haegerich, and Roger Chou. “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 65, no. 1 (March 18, 2016): 1-49.

[4] Becker, Niels, Per Sjøgren, Per Bech, Alf Kornelius Olsen, and Jørgen Eriksen. “Treatment Outcome of Chronic Non-malignant Pain Patients Managed in a Danish Multidisciplinary Pain Centre Compared to General Practice: A Randomised Controlled Trial.” Pain 84, no. 2 (February 2000): 203-11.

[5] “Interagency Guideline on Prescribing Opioids for Pain.” Agency Medical Directors’ Group. June 2015. Accessed March 22, 2016. http://www.agencymeddirectors.wa.gov/Files/2015AMDGOpioidGuideline.pdf.