At the start of a program, patients are asked to identify specific goals. These may include the following:
Although patients rarely if ever report that their pain has been eliminated, by the conclusion of the program they often report a reduction in the amount of pain. Most patients enter a pain management program because of persistent pain, but they are taught not to set pain elimination as their primary goal. Instead they are encouraged to focus on other, more attainable goals.
In group-based pain programs, patients are encouraged to participate regularly in exercise (including stretching, cardiovascular reconditioning and weight training) and to increase their activity at a progressive rate under supervision. The goal is to gradually increase function without exceeding predetermined limits of pain and discomfort. Patients have been known to increase their physical strength and endurance by 50 to 100 percent over a three-month period.
Through education and daily monitoring, most patients are able to use prescription pain medication responsibly. Participants are frequently asked to monitor their medication for a week before entering a program and to report their daily medication at the end of the program.
Most patients report being depressed and having problems relating to others. At the conclusion of most group-based pain programs, patients usually show evidence of improved sleep, decreased emotional distress and increased self-esteem.
Patients who set as their goal an eventual return to work are often successful. Follow-up helpfulness ratings indicate that patients who have a positive experience in a pain management program tend to return to work and/or maintain an active, productive lifestyle.