What Should You Expect from Your Pain Management Specialist?
Whether your pain is chronic or sudden, the result is the same—reduced quality of life, interference in your day-to-day activities, and discomfort (or worse) that negatively affects your wellbeing. Experiencing such pain can lead to a variety of pursuits and outcomes, but most share a common theme—finding a way to manage or eliminate the pain.
In fact, there is an entire field of medicine dedicated to helping individuals manage their pain. Often referred to as pain management doctors or specialists, professionals in this field focus on bringing relief by addressing the source of the pain. In other words, they seek to bring long-term pain relief by correcting the cause, not masking the symptoms.
If you’re intrigued by the potential of working with a pain management specialist, we totally understand and would love to set you up for success. After all, you should be selective when choosing a pain management specialist.
So, what should you expect from your pain management doctor? We’re glad you asked. Read on to discover what you need to know when looking for your own specialist!
Types of Pain Addressed by Pain Management Specialists
Pain can come from a variety of sources, so to keep things simple, the sources are generally broken down into three primary categories—tissue injuries, nervous system disorders, and mixed pain disorders. Based on these categories, your pain can be more easily identified and treated. Consider the following examples:
- Tissue Injuries – Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Nervous System Disorders – Multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, spinal injury, stroke
- Mixed Pain Disorders – Back pain, cancer, neck pain
How to Choose a Pain Management Doctor
When searching for the right pain management doctor for your specific situation, there are a few key considerations to make. While the decision ultimately comes down to you, being thorough in your research and selective in your process will help ensure you end up with the best possible specialist!
Education and Experience
Your pain management doctor should have the proper medical training and be fellowship-trained and board-certified, as well as have the experience to make you feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. This shouldn’t be an awkward topic to address with them, either.
Instead, you should have an open and honest conversation with the pain management specialist about your situation, your concerns, and what makes them the right doctor for the job. You can ask them about their particular areas of expertise, scour the internet for feedback from other patients, and see if you feel comfortable with them in a more general sense.
Any educated, experienced pain management doctor should have a stellar reputation, obvious in-depth knowledge of their field, modern equipment, and respect for your concerns, preferences, and wishes!
Approach to Treatment
Pain management doctors typically use a three-step method to address your pain. This allows them to evaluate the severity of your condition and gradually scale up the intensity of the treatment to a level that fits your needs.
Medications are often used as the first tier of pain management. Whether these are taken orally (such as anti-inflammatories or anti-depressants) or injected (nerve blocks), they are largely non-invasive. Even transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators may be used in this first level of pain management.
If the methods above are ineffective, your doctor will likely move on to more advanced procedures. Radiofrequency ablation and viscosupplementation are prime examples of treatment methods used in the second tier of pain management. Some stronger medications may also be prescribed.
Finally, your pain management specialist may opt to implant a pump or stimulator that actively relieves pain by interacting with the spinal cord. Regenerative medicines are another option in this third tier of pain management.
While there is not necessarily a standardized progression of treatments, you should communicate with your doctor to ensure they are not jumping to more extreme treatment methods without exhausting less serious or less invasive options first.
Planning Your Visit
Knowing what to expect from your pain management specialist is a fantastic way to find the right doctor for you. Once you’ve put in the work and found a doctor to visit, you’ll want to set your expectation for the visit itself.
The first visit will likely consist of a conversation regarding your medical and pain history (it helps if you have a pain journal), including any past studies you’ve done, medication you’re taking, and more. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam.
Preparing yourself for some of the commonly asked questions will help the entire process go a little smoother, so consider taking some time before your visit to think about the following and how you can best describe your experience.
- Describe your pain. Where is it, when does it occur, and what does it feel like?
- Does anything help your pain?
- Do any other symptoms accompany the pain?
Now is also the time to ask the pain management specialist questions you have for them. Feel free to brainstorm beforehand and write down your questions and concerns. Trust us; your doctor will be more than happy to answer your questions, no matter how general or specific they may be!
If you’re living in pain, a pain management specialist can help. The key is finding the right doctor for you and your condition. By considering the factors mentioned above, you can set yourself up to find the perfect specialist for your situation, and through that, a more pain-free life!