What to expect from your pain management specialist

A specialist in pain management is a doctor who assesses your pain and addresses various ailments related to pain. A pain management specialist treats unexpected pain issues, such as headaches as well as a variety of chronic, long-lasting pain like low back pain. Patients are treated in an office for pain and leave the next day. The pain management specialists provide a variety of drug-based procedures and treatments which can relieve pain in its origin.

The types of pain that can be managed by a pain management doctor

The different types of pain managed by a pain-management doctor are classified into three major categories. The first one is from direct tissue injuries like arthritis. Another type of pain is caused by nerve injury or a nerve system disorder, like stroke. The third kind of pain is a combination of nerve injury and tissue like back pain.

The causes of pain are because of tissue injuries

  • Osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis in large joints: hips, knees)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (arthritis caused by an auto-immune reaction that is felt in tiny joints such as wrists, fingers)

Disorders of the nervous system or nerves that can cause discomfort.

  • Stroke (post-stroke pain)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Injury to the spinal cord
  • Neuropathy (nerve pain caused by the shingles condition, HIV, diabetes)

Mixed pain disorders

  • Neck discomfort
  • Back discomfort
  • Cancer

A pain management doctors’ background

Physicians who specialize in pain management have nine years of medical education. They begin by receiving an extensive education at medical school. After that, they receive four years of practical training in fields such as anesthesiology, physical medicine , rehabilitation or neurology. Then, they finish an additional year of training that is solely focused on the treatment of pain. This is followed by a certification issued by the American Board of Pain Medicine.

A multi-faceted treatment approach

The treatment for pain may begin by a primary care physician starting with pain medication along with physical therapy. For more advanced treatment for pain, you’ll be referred to a treatment doctor. The doctors who treat pain are trained to treat patients in a sequential method.

  1. First line treatment involves medications (anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, anti-depressants) and injections that numb pain (nerve blocks or spinal injections). Also, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators – devices that make use of the skin to provide low voltage electrical current to areas of pain) are also available.
  2. Second line treatment involves advanced procedures such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or viscosupplementation. In RFA it is when chemical or heat substances are applied the nerve to stop the signals that cause pain. It is utilized for chronic pain conditions like spinal arthritis. Viscosupplementation is the infusion of fluid that lubricates joints to treat arthritis pain. At this point the doctor can also prescribe stronger medication.
  3. Third line treatments involve implanting an electric pain pump or stimulation device for the spinal cord. These procedures reduce discomfort at the level that the spine it is the human body’s control centre to sense pain. Treatment for regenerative (stem cells) treatment is a different option in this phase.

For more information about the treatment options provided by pain management specialists,

Your pain management doctor

Communication is the foundation of a successful doctor-patient partnership. Experience and compassion in medicine are also things to look for in the pain management physician.

Desirable qualities in a pain doctor/pain clinic:

  • A thorough understanding of the causes of pain
  • The ability to assess patients with complicated pain conditions
  • Properly prescribing medications for pain issues
  • The ability to utilize different diagnostic tests to determine the root of pain
  • Expertise in procedures (nerve blocks and spinal injections and pain pumps)
  • A solid group of outside professionals to whom patients can be referred for psychological, physical therapy assistance, or a surgical evaluation
  • The treatment is in accordance with the patient’s needs and values
  • Up-to-date equipment
  • Staff in the office are helpful and friendly.

The clinic for pain management

Patients suffering from pain are treated in a pain clinic for outpatients with procedure rooms including ultrasound and X-ray imaging. Sometimes, the pain physician will perform the procedures at the nearby hospital. Some pain doctors might provide you with sedation during procedures. However, it’s not necessary in most instances. In hospitals, “Twilight” anesthesia may be administered to a patient when needed.

The first visit with a pain specialist

In the initial visit the doctor who treats pain will ask you questions regarding the symptoms of pain. They might also examine the records from your previous visits as well as your medication record and any previous diagnostic studies (X-ray, MRI, CT). It is helpful if you have previous research (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs). The doctor will carry out an extensive physical examination. The first time you visit the doctor it’s helpful to keep a pain diary or, at a minimum, be aware of the patterns of pain you experience.

The most common questions your doctor will inquire about during your first visit:

  1. What is the source of your pain? (what body component)
  2. How does your pain feel like? (dull, aching, tingling)
  3. Do you often suffer from discomfort? (how often do you feel it during the day or at night?)
  4. What is the time you feel discomfort? (with exercising or sitting down)
  5. Are you setting yourself up for discomfort? (is it more painful sitting, standing, or lying down)
  6. What causes your pain to get better? (does an a specific medication help)
  7. Have you noticed any other symptoms that you are experiencing discomfort? (like loss of bowel function or bladder control)

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