PainSA is a chapter of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Our mission is to improve all aspects of pain management in Southern Africa.

Practical approach to a patient with chronic pain of uncertain etiology in primary care

Chronic pain of uncertain etiology often presents a challenge to both patients and their healthcare providers. It is a complex condition influenced by structural and physiological changes in the peripheral and central nervous systems, and it directly influences and is modulated by, psychological well-being and personality style, mood, sleep, activity level and social circumstances. Consequently, in order to effectively treat the pain, all of these need to be evaluated and addressed. An effective management strategy takes a multidisciplinary biopsychosocial approach, with a review of all current medications and identification and careful withdrawal of those that may actually be contributing to ongoing pain. The management approach is primarily nonpharmacological, with carefully considered addition of medication, beginning with pain-modulating treatments, if necessary. In this article, we present a primary care approach to the assessment and management of a patient with chronic pain where the cause cannot be identified.