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Pain and Function in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain—Treating the Whole Person

Authors Mallick-Searle T, Sharma K, Toal P, Gutman A

Received 23 October 2020

Accepted for publication 26 January 2021

Published 10 February 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 335—347


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Theresa Mallick-Searle,1 Kristin Sharma,2 Philip Toal,3 Asya Gutman4

1Stanford Health Care, Division of Pain Medicine, Redwood City, CA, USA; 2Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, West Orange, NJ, USA; 3Cleveland Clinic Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy, Cleveland, OH, USA; 4New York Pain Relief Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Correspondence: Theresa Mallick-Searle
Stanford Health Care, Division of Pain Medicine, Redwood City, CA, USA

Abstract: Chronic pain is often associated with functional limitations that have a huge impact on patients’ lives. However, despite being relatively common, chronic musculoskeletal pain is still viewed by some as a symptom of another disease rather than its own condition, and is therefore poorly addressed. This is compounded by other challenges in the field, including education gaps for both healthcare professionals and patients, a lack of universal and comprehensive assessment tools, poor societal perceptions of chronic pain, and the current stigma around the use of opioids. Here, we review the current chronic musculoskeletal pain management landscape in the United States and offer professional insight into emerging methods that can be used to improve patient outcomes, in particular, the achievement of meaningful functional goals. This perspective incorporates our combined multidisciplinary (psychiatry, psychology, nursing, physical therapy, and general medicine) experience and insights. We believe that chronic pain is a multifactorial experience and treatment requires an integrated, multidisciplinary approach from a range of healthcare providers. For the best patient outcomes, this team should work together to assess and treat the patient as a whole, addressing their pain and also providing education, empowerment, and support to enable patients to set and achieve meaningful functional goals that will provide real improvement in their quality of life. We believe that the healthcare community should elevate the conversation around chronic musculoskeletal pain management beyond that of just pain, to encompass the meaningful benefits that improvement in functional outcomes brings to patients.

Keywords: patient participation, delivery of healthcare, physical functional performance, United States, interdisciplinary team

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