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How to get NHS help for your pain

If you have been struggling with pain for more than 12 weeks, there are many services that can help.

Long-term pain has many causes, such as arthritis, back problems, an old injury, illness or nerve damage.

Contact a GP

Your first stop should be a GP so you can discuss your pain in all its forms.

Read some advice from PainSupport on preparing for your GP appointment.

The GP may:

  • carry out a physical examination
  • discuss your pain history
  • identify where the pain is coming from
  • record your level of pain
  • check for signs of any illness that could be causing your pain or making it worse
  • ask how your pain is affecting your life

The GP may suggest trying some painkillers for short-term pain relief. However, painkillers are generally not considered a primary way to manage long-term pain.

If appropriate, the GP may suggest ways for you to stay active, which can help ease pain and improve your general wellbeing.

You may also be referred for complementary therapy to see if that helps with the pain.

You should be offered advice on how to better manage your pain on a day-to-day basis, such as by using self-help techniques.

Support groups

There's lots of self-help advice available from a variety of organisations supporting people living with long-term pain, such as:

Charities specialising in specific conditions, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, may also offer more targeted pain management advice.

Some of these organisations run helplines and self-help groups, where you can talk to and meet other people with long-term pain.

Pain clinics

If you find you're having difficulty managing your pain, ask the GP for a referral to a specialist pain clinic.

Pain clinics offer a wide range of treatments and support. They aim to support you in developing self-help skills to control and relieve your pain.

Treatments may include:

  • medicine
  • pain-relief injections
  • manual therapy
  • exercise
  • complementary therapy
  • psychological therapy

Pain-management programmes

Some people receiving treatment at a pain clinic may be offered a pain management programme (PMP).

The aim of a PMP is to improve your quality of life, despite your pain, rather than reducing your pain.

PMPs are usually delivered through a series of group sessions with other people with persistent pain, in a friendly environment.

The sessions may include:

  • gentle exercise
  • relaxation and mindfulness
  • how to manage emotions related to long-term pain
  • group discussion
  • learning to pace yourself to avoid pain flare-ups

Page last reviewed: 21 February 2023
Next review due: 21 February 2026