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Comprehensive Pain Center

The Minneapolis VA Comprehensive Pain Center (CPC) provides a variety of specialty pain services in a stepped model of pain management, delivering the most effective and least resource-intensive treatment for Veterans.

Pain management services include inpatient, outpatient and virtual/telehealth pain medicine consultation, pain management procedures/injections, chiropractic care, pain rehabilitation services and a Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accredited interdisciplinary Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program.

An evaluation by a CPC physician requires a referral from your VA health care provider. If you receive care outside of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, please speak with your pain care provider about the evaluation process.

Questions and appointments

For general Comprehensive Pain Center questions, please contact .

If you would like to cancel or reschedule your Comprehensive Pain Center appointment, please contact .

For questions about pain management injections/procedures, please contact .

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Pain treatments

Evaluation and treatment planning

When your primary care or specialty provider places a pain clinic consult you will be scheduled with a physician for a clinic visit to evaluate your pain complaint and help develop a treatment plan based on your goals. As part of this plan of care you may be referred to one of more of the other specialties listed below.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy focuses on improving physical function and treatment of pain. Treatment may include strengthening, stretching, balance and aerobic exercise; education to reduce fear and improve movement; and hands-on therapy for joints and muscles. A customized self-care program and a better understanding of pain will help you do more activities at home, work and in the community.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on the “job of living”, looking at how pain, sleep, energy, thinking and mood impact daily life. OT works with you to identify personal goals and use changes to daily activity, movement, and new skills to calm the nervous system, quiet pain, and improve life.  Tools such as biofeedback, graded motor imagery, TENS, mind-body skills, and many others can also be used to help treat pain and return you to what you truly want and need to do to live your life.

Pain pharmacy

Pain pharmacy works collaboratively with you to optimize medications that you're taking for pain management. The focus of this service is to ensure that medications prescribed for pain are both effective and safe. Individualized medication treatment plans are created based on your unique health concerns and perceptions of pain. Although medications can have an important role in pain management, they remain a single component of a more comprehensive care plan that includes non-pharmacological treatments.


Pain psychologists empower you to reduce the distress of your chronic pain by teaching a set of highly effective skills in usually 8 sessions or less. By understanding the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, you develop an improved way of recognizing problematic patterns that impact your pain. Veterans are encouraged to continue to practice these skills on your own after the completion of treatment.

Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program (CPRP)

The CPRP is a four-week outpatient program to improve the quality of life for Veterans and active-duty service members with chronic pain. Participants who have completed CPRP report less pain, less depression, and improved daily activity. Participants and their families report a high level of satisfaction and recommend this program for others living with chronic pain.

Learn more about the Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program

Recreation therapy

Recreation therapy focuses on the things that bring you joy in your life, and what you can do to get back to doing those things. Individual sessions provide leisure education on managing pain while engaging in leisure activities or setting goals to get back into the things you enjoy, and identifying ways to overcome barriers. Group and community settings get you out and engaged in your community with other Veterans.


Acupuncture originated in China and has been used to treat pain for thousands of years. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that it can be effective, particularly for the treatment of chronic pain. Tiny needles, about the width of a human hair, are placed at specific points on the body with the goal of calming the nervous system and reducing pain. Acupuncture treatments can serve as a bridge to help you move towards self-care and active treatments that will last long after the course of acupuncture treatment has ended.


Biofeedback is a process that uses feedback from a person’s own body to inform and guide treatment planning. Equipment is used to measure information like heartrate, skin temperature, and muscle activation. This information can lead to more individualized education, skill development and personal insight. It can also be applied to functional goals to improve outcomes as part of a comprehensive rehab therapy treatment plan.


Chiropractic care focuses on treating disorders of the muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Pain can be complicated, and treatment often requires a broad approach which may include exercise, education, and hands-on therapy. Chiropractors will use multiple treatments as a bridge to help you move towards self-care and active treatments that will last long after the course of chiropractic treatment has ended.

Pain management procedures/injections

The Comprehensive Pain Center provides injection-based treatment options which may be recommended as part of your pain management plan of care. These injections are not meant to cure your pain but rather to reduce symptoms to help move you towards self-care and active treatment.

For questions about pain injections/procedures, please contact . Listed below are some of the procedures performed at the Minneapolis VA Pain Interventional Clinic:

  • Epidural steroid injection (ESI)
  • Peripheral nerve injection/block
  • Diagnostic/therapeutic joint injection
  • Diagnostic Medial Branch Blocks
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Spinal cord stimulator trials
  • Occipital nerve blocks
  • Intercostal nerve injection
  • Ilioinguinal/Iliohypogastric nerve injection
  • Genitofemoral nerve injection
  • Botulinum toxin injections
  • Neuroma injections/blocks


Will the procedure fix my underlying condition?

Generally, injections in the pain clinic will not change the physical problem causing your pain (for example: a steroid injection does not make a herniated disc go back to normal or stop arthritis from progressing).

These procedures are done for a few reasons: to better locate where your pain is coming from, to provide you enough pain relief to encourage participation in the other therapies/treatments you may have been prescribed, to decrease inflammation, and to improve pain while your body heals itself. 

When will my procedure start working?

Steroid injections (Cortisone) often involve at least two different types of medications. A local anesthetic (a short-acting numbing pain medication) and steroid are used together to create short and long-lasting pain relief. The short acting medication will likely give some relief the day of the procedure, and the longer acting medication will likely take two or more days to start working.

How long will the relief from my injection last?

This is specific to the type of procedure performed, so it’s a good idea to ask your primary doctor or pain physician about your procedure. Typically, injections with only short-acting numbing medication provide pain relief for less than 24hrs; injections with steroids can provide pain relief between 2-4 months (or longer); and nerve ablations can provide pain relief up to 12 months (or longer).

What happens during my injection procedure?

Timeline of your day:

  1. Patients should arrive 45 minutes before their appointment. 
  2. A nurse will check you in and will review important questions about your current health, medications and pain. 
  3. Next, a pain physician will meet with you to discuss the procedure as well as risks and benefits of the planned procedure. Any questions can be answered at that time. 
  4. After all questions have been answered, the patient is led by their nurse to the procedure room, at which point the procedure team will further verify information about you and your procedure prior to starting. A pain physician, registered nurse and radiology technician will be with you throughout your entire procedure. 
  5. After the procedure, your nurse will ask important questions about your pain and other symptoms related to your procedure. Once you have been medically cleared by the nurse and/or physician, you are free to leave our procedure clinic. 
  6. Follow up information will be given to you including the direct phone number to our pain clinic nursing team.
What do I do if the injection doesn’t work?

We recommend that you follow up with the provider that referred you for your injection, as there may be additional therapy, medications or injections your provider wants to try in order to best treat your pain.

Why do I need a driver for my procedure?

Most injections require local anesthetic (short-acting numbing pain medication) to help keep you comfortable. They may cause numbness or weakness in your arms or legs that can last for hours. That is why we require you have a driver so that you can get safely home should this happen to you. It is important to note that these medications DO NOT cause permanent numbness or weakness.

Will I be sedated?

The procedures performed at this clinic do not require sedation. It is important to be awake and conscious during a procedure to prevent nerve injury or other complications. 

How many of these procedures can I have done?

Typically, patients should receive no more than 3-4 steroid injections per year without seeking additional counsel from your primary doctor or pain specialist.

Other procedures that do not require steroids (like medial branch blocks or radiofrequency ablation) are generally done every 9-12 months as needed for ongoing pain relief.

Why do I need to fast?

Prior to a procedure, it is important to have as little in your stomach as possible. This is important for multiple reasons; for example: should an emergency occur and you need life saving treatments, recently eaten food can get into your lungs and cause further complications.