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How is a Pain Clinic Different from Hospice?

by Viki Kind, End-of-Life Expert
March 13, 2015

Question: What is a pain clinic and is it different from hospice?

Answer: A pain clinic is exactly what it sounds like, a place you go to get treatment for your pain. It could be nerve pain, orthopedic pain, cancer pain, etc. Pain clinics can be incredibly helpful because they can teach you how to reduce and manage chronic pain. 

I speak from experience because I went to a pain clinic after an injury to my wrist. They taught me how to keep the pain from taking over my life. With occupational therapy, I learned new ways of doing everyday tasks to keep the pain from increasing. I also learned cognitive strategies to keep the pain from getting out of control. It was truly life changing. 

Where the confusion in terms happens is that a pain clinic falls under the larger category of “palliative care” which means to palliate or to make it feel better. Palliative care treatments can help with the pain and other symptoms that come from living with an injury or illness. Palliative care treatments can also be given when one is dying and this is found within hospice. Hospice professionals have specialized knowledge about managing any pain or suffering you might be experiencing as you are dying. So although hospice and pain clinics are part of the medical specialty called palliative care, they care for people at different times in their lives.

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Viki Kind is a clinical bioethicist, professional speaker, and hospice volunteer. Her book, The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices For Those Who Can't,” guides families and professionals through the difficult process of advocating for those who can no longer speak for themselves. She has recently launched a DVD that includes a template to create a quality-of-life statement.

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