Managing pain is our daily business at McGill’s Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the Montreal General Hospital, one of the world’s first pain clinics. The clinic’s patients suffer from musculoskeletal pain, pain from cancer or trauma, neuropathic pain— and their conditions often have no real name. “People hate it. They come to me and say, ‘I want to know what I have.’ So I say, ‘You have a disease. It’s called chronic pain.’”
The Pain Management Unit is an innovative example of the multidisciplinary approach to pain treatment, calling on a team of 25 physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists, nurses and other specialists. The clinic operates beyond its capacity and its waiting list can stretch to over a year. It’s a testament to the growing problem of chronic pain in an aging population and, says Shir, that “as a rule, physicians do not know how to treat pain.” Staff work as a group helping people manage their pain through a wide range of approaches, from physiotherapy and medication to group therapy and even complementary and alternative medicine.