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  1. Although chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, cancer, and heart disease combined, its exact incidence and prevalence is difficult to determine as it is often viewed as a symptom rather than as a discrete diagnosis.

  2. Chronic pain is an expensive problem: in the United States alone, it is associated with an annual cost of $560-$635 billion in lost productivity and healthcare expenses.

  3. A purely biomedical approach can be helpful when treating acute pain, as this model’s focus on pharmacologic, interventional, and surgical treatments may lead to complete elimination of pain. This model does not usually result in long-term amelioration of symptoms in individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions and is thus not as efficacious in this population.

  4. Many chronic pain conditions lack a clear and specific pathophysiology and are best conceptualized as an interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors. Such a biopsychosocial formulation is the most widely accepted approach to treating and managing chronic pain conditions.

  5. Employing a biopsychosocial approach to pain evaluation and treatment requires use of clinicians that represent a range of different specialty areas beyond the field of medicine. Such multidisciplinary teams work collaboratively with patients to advance their care.

  6. A pain physician/physician extender is usually the lead clinician on a multidisciplinary treatment team. This person’s roles include completing a thorough medical workup, optimizing medications, assessing for the role of interventional treatment, and coordinating care among the rest of the treatment team.

  7. A pain psychologist identifies the role(s) that different substances, stressors, emotional states, and lifestyle factors have on the experience of pain and works with patients to help address the adverse impact they can have on treatment outcomes.

  8. Physical therapists focus on all aspects of patients’ physical functioning as related to their chronic pain condition. These clinicians help patients engage in appropriate exercises that target specific movement impairments. Their work often improves flexibility and strengthening while concurrently reducing inappropriate guarding and fear of activity.

  9. Other specialists that may be included on multidisciplinary teams include other medical disciplines, addictionologists, pharmacists, dietitians, care managers, and complementary and alternative medicine specialists.

  10. Multidisciplinary treatment approaches for chronic pain are more cost-effective compared to purely biomedical models. This modality of treatment is associated with reduction in pain intensity, disability, and other psychosocial outcomes and is often used to facilitate weaning of opioid medication.

  11. Many of the recommendations made in the National Pain Strategy’s 2016 report can be facilitated through use of multidisciplinary teams.


Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, cancer, and heart disease combined.1 According to the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM)* Report on Relieving Pain in America, at least 100 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain.1 This number excludes adults with acute pain; children with either acute or chronic pain; and adults living in long-term care facilities, military facilities, or prison....

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