6. Themed Days

6.5. Day 5: Chronic Pain

Preparatory work

In preparation students should have:

  • Reviewed some of the resources on healthtalk.org about chronic pain and used this to find a definition of chronic pain as well as listening to some of the descriptions of the effects of chronic pain on individuals.
  • Watched this Brainman video; it’s also interesting to read the public comments (with caution). 
  • Read about arthritis and different management options for this condition on the versus arthritis website.
  • Considered questions to ask a healthcare professional or a patient about dealing with chronic pain.


To introduce students to this common multifactorial condition, its effects on individuals, families and societies, and to the management approaches for this condition.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the day, the student should be able to:

  • Describe the factors that are important in development of chronic, disabling back pain or other pain.
  • Summarise the socio-economic impact of these conditions on individuals, society and the health service.
  • Identify pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment options for chronic pain.
  • Discuss the effect of chronic pain on the doctor patient relationship.
  • Practise interview skills.


Example timetable

9.30 – 10.30

Tutorial on chronic pain


10.30 – 10.45


Tea break

10.45 – 11.45

Prepare for patient/healthcare professional encounters

  • Plan questions and observations


Interview patient/s with a chronic pain condition and/or professional providing care for these patients


11.45 – 12.30

Group debrief of patient encounters

Discuss with group challenges of dealing with/living with chronic pain


Set up afternoon activity;

Student-led research – 2 groups, research pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment options for management chronic pain, consider pros/cons of each and local access to these options. Prepare brief presentation.


12.30 – 13.15



13.30 – 14.45

Student-led research


1:1 formative feedback meeting with GP tutor (for 4-6 students)


Includes tea break

14.45 – 16.00

Student presentations & group discussion

Set homework for next session



Suggested activities

  • Tutorial – could include definition of chronic pain, discuss possible causes, outline various treatment options, challenges faced by patients and health services, local pain services, current ‘hot topics’ e.g. opiate prescribing and medical cannabinoids (FPM statement, Nov 2019), current draft NICE guidance on chronic pain (due Sep 2020) & the media response to it.
  • Student-led research – 2 groups, pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment options for management chronic pain, pros/cons of each, consider local access to these options. Present back to group and discuss.
  • In small groups/pairs, plan interview with a GP or a patient about chronic pain (if possible, please arrange for some students to interview a GP and some a patient so they can compare findings when they meet again as a group).  
  • Meeting with GP tutor for formative feedback on progress to date with learning activities and on professional attitude and conduct.     


Questions for students to consider

  • How did dealing with patients with chronic pain affect the health care professional you interviewed?  How did they feel about patients with chronic pain?  How do you think you would deal with this situation?
  • How did you feel meeting a patient with chronic pain?  How did you think they were coping with their situation?  What sources of support were they drawing on?
  • You may have a meeting today with your tutor.  How are you finding the placement so far? How do you feel you are progressing?  Have you noticed any changes in yourself?  Do you feel comfortable in the group?  Do you feel comfortable meeting patients?