The importance of a multimodal approach to pain management

Mike the patient

The shift from viewing pain as simply a symptom opens up opportunities to greatly improve the way it is treated, writes PainWISE MD Joyce McSwan MPS. How can pharmacists get behind it?

Pain science has changed.

For a very long time, we have been treating and understanding pain as though it was a symptom.

As a symptom, you’d simply use a single treatment and therefore expect it to improve.

But we really have to grasp the fact that pain has become a disease in itself, especially with persistent pain. It’s a multifaceted and complex disorder. So we’ve got to treat it in a multimodal way.

As we’ve begun to understand pain more, we’ve realised that we have to assess the patient’s pain journey using a biopsychosocial assessment model.

That requires more than just a medicalised treatment option, such as opioids, as we have been using for so long. We also have to consider the psychological aspect, the social aspect and the environmental aspect.

This presents pharmacists with the opportunity to support outcomes with adjunct therapies and by influencing behaviour.

Your first role as a pharmacist is to get up to speed with that new science. You then need to support your pharmacy team and your community’s wider healthcare network in getting up to speed. Consistency is key.

With National Pain Week running July 23 to July 29, now is a better time than ever to explore the latest pain management science and education.

Some of the modules below will teach you how to communicate more effectively and build stronger rapport with those living with pain.

Once you’ve worked your way through these modules, I recommend you also consider attending the PainWISE Pharmacy Professional Service program where you will get full mentoring even after the training.

Seeking mentoring by a peer who has expert skills in the area of pain management will help pharmacists to get more confident in adopting a multimodal approach to treatment.

Because that’s what’s required if we’re to change how the health industry views pain management.

Further resources

  • PSA’s Codeine Resource Hub. Codeine rescheduling series – Pharmacist modules1
  • Faculty of Pain Medicine – Better Pain Management2
  • PainWISE Foundations Professional Service Program3
  • University of Sydney – Pain Management Research Institute – Webinar Skills Training in Pain Management4


  1. PSA’s Codeine Resource Hub. Codeine rescheduling series – Pharmacist modules. At:
  2. Faculty of Pain Medicine – Better Pain Management. At:
  3. PainWISE Foundations Professional Service Program. At:
  4. University of Sydney – Pain Management Research Institute – Webinar Skills Training in Pain Management. At:

Joyce McSwan is a multi-award winning Clinical Pharmacist, Pain Educator and Pain Program developer. She is currently the Clinical Director of the ‘Turning Pain into Gain’ program for the Gold Coast Primary Health Network, Australia’s first federally funded primary health pain program.