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Pain Clinic nurses Say They Do More than Prescribe Pills

With pain, there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

"That's the thing about pain management, there is no cookie cutter 'This is what you do for everybody.' It needs to be an individualized treatment," Susan Daffron, a nurse practitioner at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee, said.

With dozens of pain clinics across the state closing in recent weeks, individualized treatment can be hard to find.

But Daffron said it is important to note that treatment does not necessarily mean a prescription.

"There are so many more levels to pain management," she said.

If physical therapy or other medical treatments don't work, only then they prescribe opioid medication.

"They're not perfect but they can relieve pain, and in some cases relieve pain very well. The problem is they are abusable," said Darren McCoy, another nurse at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee.

He said a reputable pain clinic will closely monitor patients to make sure they're not abusing the medication, including conducting pill counts and drug tests.

But the treatment doesn't stop there.

"Pain management is equal parts patting people on the back, saying 'I understand you' and kicking them in the rear saying 'let's get going now that you have some access to pain treatment, let's see what you can do with this,'" McCoy said.

Sometimes, a little pain management is all patients need.

"They're not skipping down the hallway, but they have a smile on their face," he said. "They're able to stand up and look us in the eye and say 'I'm better able to move.'"

Both nurses said key to all of this is stability. They see patients every month for years, that way they're able to gauge whether the medication is helping or if the patient might need to be more closely monitored.

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