As the name suggests, these doctors work with patients who have chronic illnesses that require opioids or other long-term medications. A medical specialist in pain management can be anyone, from a family medicine doctor to an internal medicine doctor to a psychiatrist. For example, a patient receiving methadone for chronic pain would see a medical specialist in pain management, not an interventional pain management physician. Pain management is an effective alternative to surgery for all types of chronic pain.
It can complement physical therapy and other treatment methods by helping to relax the body and provide relief. This started many years ago because anesthesiologists were well versed in medications, particularly local anesthetics, pain relievers, and also in different types of procedures for the nerves, such as nerve blocks and different types of spine (epidural) techniques, especially if there are complications or if the procedure is performed incorrectly. Despite the large number of pain management specialists currently working, there are strict requirements that must be met before becoming one. Your provider will ask you when and where you feel pain and if it improves (or worsens) with certain activities.
In addition to a complete physical exam, the doctor will study previous x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs and ask a series of questions to better understand the pain. First, neurostimulation, which is a device that sends electrical activity to the dorsal spine of the spinal cord, can help reduce back pain and nerve pain in the leg. Pain management physicians specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of pain, especially for patients with chronic pain that is difficult to diagnose. Chronic pain affects millions of Americans and negatively affects their energy levels and overall quality of life.
While you don't always need a referral to see a pain specialist, most of the time these visits are made after seeing your primary care doctor (PCP) and another specialist, such as a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon. Walia recalls when doctors learned that pain was the fifth vital sign and how they should work to control patients' pain. Your doctor will likely ask you to start keeping a pain diary that documents symptoms and patterns to better understand pain. While pain specialists treat a litany of ailments, spinal disorders, including herniated discs in the lumbar (back) or cervical (neck) spine, are the most common problems.
You can see how often you have pain and how it prevents daily activities, such as sleeping, working, and hobbies. However, most doctors who manage pain devote their time and experience to helping patients with chronic pain whose needs can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and require months or years to treat them with multiple therapies. A variety of qualified experts usually work in a pain management clinic and have all the right equipment to deliver accurate results. Once the true source of your pain has been identified, a pain management clinic can develop the right treatment plan to address it.