Like other physicians, pain management specialists earn a college degree and then complete four years of medical school. They spend four more years learning one-of-four medical specialties: anesthesiology, neurology, psychiatry or physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Our doctors continue their education to specialize in pain medicine by receiving an additional year of fellowship training to become a "subspecialist," or an expert in treating pain. Some go on to do research in addition to their clinical practice, and many have special certification in pain medicine through the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). The ABA is the only organization recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties to offer special credentials in pain medicine
Do I need a referral to see a physician?
Pain Management doctors are specialists. Everyone who comes to see us needs to be referred by another doctor. This can be your Primary Care Physician or another specialist like a surgeon, orthopedist or neurologist. We work closely with both your referring doctor and your PCP.
When would I need to see a pain medicine doctor?
People develop pain for many reasons. Pain from a recent surgery, injury or medical illness is called acute pain. In many cases, this pain can be managed immediately and will usually get better in just a short time. For more serious pain, however, your primary care doctor may ask a pain medicine doctor to help manage your pain while you are healing.
If your pain persists after the healing process should be over, you might have what is called chronic pain. If the current treatment you are receiving stops working or your pain begins to get worse over time, your primary care doctor may suggest that you see a pain medicine doctor.
Cancer pain is another condition that can be managed by a pain medicine doctor while the patient continues to receive treatment for various types of cancer. The pain can be due to cancer surgery or treatment procedures, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, or the tumor itself.
What does a pain medicine doctor do? Can these doctors find out why I hurt?
Pain medicine doctors are experts at diagnosing why you are having pain as well as treating the pain itself. Some of the more common pain problems they manage include: arthritis, back and neck pain, cancer pain, nerve pain, migraine headaches, shingles, phantom limb pain for amputees and pain caused by AIDS.
They also manage acute pain caused by surgery, a debilitating illness or a serious injury. Examples include: pain after a knee-joint replacement, pain during recovery from a car accident, pain following stomach or chest surgery, or pain associated with sickle cell disease. You may be treated in the hospital or in an outpatient clinic.
• The pain medicine doctor will work closely with your primary care doctor.
• Pain medicine doctors will review your medical records and X-rays as needed.
• They will ask you to describe your pain in detail, such as where it hurts, for how long, what makes the pain worse or what makes it feel better.
• They will ask you to fill out a detailed questionnaire that helps them to assess the impact that your pain is having on your lifestyle and if it is interfering with your daily activities.
• They also will do a complete physical examination on you.
• They may need to order other tests and will then review all of their findings to determine what is causing your pain and how the problem can be corrected
Should I tell my medical provider that I am having pain?
Yes. Your provider needs to assess your pain, so it is very important for your health care team to know if you are in pain.
Some days my acute pain is much worse. What can I do?
You might notice at times that you are in more pain than usual (such as at the end of a tiring day or as a result of certain activities). If you notice that certain activities contribute to your pain, or that you feel worse at certain times of the day, medication can be taken prior to the activity (or time of day) to help prevent the pain from occurring. Always be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
How can I tell my doctor how much pain I am in?
The best way is to describe your pain as clearly and in as much detail as you possibly can. Most doctors and nurses ask you to describe your level of pain on a scale.
What can my friends and family do to help with my pain?
Friends and family can benefit you by helping you to live as normally and independently as possible.
Do I have to suffer with chronic pain for the rest of my life?
Not necessarily. With proper treatment, people can live full, normal lives after having experienced chronic pain.Should I take pain medication only when I have a lot of pain?
No. Don't wait until pain becomes severe to take pain medication. Pain is easier to control when it is mild. You should take your pain medication regularly, just as prescribed. Sometimes this means taking medicine on a regular schedule.
Will I become addicted to narcotic pain medications?
Not necessarily, if you take your medication exactly as prescribed. A person's likelihood of becoming addicted depends, in part, on his or her addiction history. Addiction is less likely if you have never had an addictive disorder. Ask your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Why do I need to keep taking more of my medicine to have the same effect?
This situation occurs when you have developed tolerance to a drug. Tolerance is a normal physiological response to narcotics and occurs when the initial dose of a substance loses its effectiveness over time. Changing the dose or the medication often solves the problem. Just because you have become tolerant to a drug does not mean that you are addicted to that drug.