A pain specialist is a doctor who is an authority on managing pain in their field, whether it's neurology, anesthesiology, or even psychiatry.
There’s no doubt that there is a great need for pain specialists: pain is a tricky and all too common problem. In fact, more than 76 million Americans ages 20 years and older — 25 percent of the population — say they’ve had pain lasting more than 24 hours.
When pain control seems beyond reach, it may be time to turn to a pain specialist: A pain specialist in neurology knows how to treat stubborn migraines, a pain specialist in anesthesiology can handle delicate lung cancer operations, and a pain specialist in orthopedic surgery can address issues that arise around joint replacements, just to name a few examples.
As with any ailment, the first stop for patients looking for pain treatment should be their primary care physician. However, if you can’t find a satisfactory pain management program within an appropriate length of time or if your pain is getting worse, referral to a pain specialist may be the next step.
What Does a Pain Specialist Do?
Unlike acute pain, which is generally caused by a sensation in the nervous system designed to alert a person to a possible injury or ailment and the need to get it treated, chronic pain lasts much longer. In other cases it might be due to an ongoing condition. Still other patients have pain despite no evidence of an injury.
Common types of chronic pain include:
- Back and neck pain
- Cancer pain
- Nerve pain
Pain Control by Specialty
While acute pain usually improves with time, chronic pain can linger and may even require intervention. How a pain specialist chooses to proceed with pain control depends greatly on his background and expertise. Pain specialists can come from a wide variety of specialties.
Finding a Pain Specialist
Do your homework. Not every pain specialist is the same.
Generally, a pain specialist should have a certificate of pain management from his specialty board. For example, anesthesiologists would have a certificate of pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology and be board certified in pain medicine by the American Board of Pain Medicine. They also should have received at least one year of fellowship training in pain management after their residency program. Patients can find a pain specialist through their primary care doctor, Internet searches, and the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.
When considering a pain specialist, ask about the focus of the physician’s medical practice. True pain specialists will spend most of their time treating people with chronic pain rather than seeing patients with a variety of ailments.
Other questions for the physician should center on his length of time in practice, his approach to pain treatment, and whether he is involved in clinical trials and has published research. Membership in pain specialty societies, such as the American Academy of Pain Medicine, is also a sign of a physician with a focused specialty in pain.
For more information, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Warwick, RI.