The causes for pain can be difficult to find and treat. Pain Management Specialists have advanced training in diagnosing and treating both acute and chronic pain.

What is a Pain Management Specialist

Broadly speaking, a pain management specialist is any “physician with special training in evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of all different types of pain,” (ASRA).

Some specialists focus on pain related to a specific bodily system or condition. Others work on diagnosing and treating pain more generally. Oncologists, for example, are more likely to study pain from cancer and cancer treatments. Anesthesiologists, meanwhile, focus on methods to relieve pain before, during, and after surgical procedures.

Many doctors in this field have pursued advanced training beyond medical school, usually through pain management fellowships. After completing a residency program in their chosen specialty (podiatry, neurology, etc), fellowship practitioners receive an additional year of training “in all aspects of pain management”. They are then eligible for a certification in pain management from one of the following medical societies:

  • American Board of Anesthesiology
  • American Board of Psychiatry
  • American Board of Neurology
  • American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Specialists also work with a wide variety of support staff, who themselves may have specific training in pain management. This can include nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, physical therapists, medical assistants, etc.

Making a Diagnosis

Since the causes of pain are often elusive, accurate diagnosis relies on effective information-gathering.

Your pain management specialist(s) will make a careful assessment of your medical history, along with any previous diagnoses you’ve been given or treatments you’ve tried. Questions they may ask include:

  • When did the pain first start and how did it progress?
  • What, if any, medications have you tried to relieve the pain?
  • Has the pain worsened over time?

The doctor may also order additional testing or imaging, like bloodwork or a CT scan.

This process may be repeated one or more times, until your doctors feel confident making a diagnosis. While this can take a frustratingly long time, try to remember that every test is useful; even negative tests or normal imaging help to narrow down the list of possible causes for your symptoms.

Treating Pain in the Short and Long Term

After initial testing and diagnosis, you and your pain management specialist will work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan, unique to your situation and needs.

Sometimes called a Chronic Pain Management Plan, this covers not only the treatments you’ll pursue, but also your overall goals for minimizing and managing your pain, as well as the roles your healthcare team will play in achieving them.

Possible treatments for pain range as widely as its causes. Your plan could include:

  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Mental health treatment through counseling or support groups
  • Medications
  • Surgical intervention
  • Changes to diet and exercise

Throughout diagnosis and treatment, do not hesitate to bring up any questions and concerns that you have. The more comfortable you are with your doctors and their recommendations, the more effective your working relationship will be and the faster you can embark on your journey to recovery.

Leave a reply