What Is a Pain Management Doctor?


The growth of treatment options to relieve pain has given rise to the medical specialty of pain management, whose practitioners have a variety of condition-specific options to relieve--or manage--pain. They work in conjunction with treating physicians or alone. Some pain management doctors specialize in medical fields such as orthopedics, anesthesiology and neurology.


A pain management doctor has earned the degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.). He must also obtain a license from the state in which he practices medicine. Practices limited to specialties require certification by their respective specialty boards, such as the American Board of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.


As part of their medical training, physicians may develop skills in one or several areas of pain management, including the use of medications, hot or cold compresses or the recommendation of physical therapy. Pain management specialists, trained in a broad range of modalities for the treatment of pain, are able to offer more treatment options and to recommend those best suited to the individual patient and ailment.


The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center lists on its website a number of conditions and various treatment modalities for controlling pain. Injuries and diseases such as broken bones, cancer and arthritis can cause severe pain. With limited time, resources and training in pain management, doctors often coordinate treatment of major pain-inducing conditions with pain management specialists. Surgeons work with pain management doctors to speed recovery and facilitate the healing process.


An article, “Chronic Pain,” on CIGNA’s website details assessment procedures, along with the causes and management of pain. A thorough assessment requires the pain management doctor to review the patient’s medical background, including any aspect of family history that may affect the diagnosis and treatment plan. The patient’s lifestyle is a primary consideration because she may have to curtail certain activities as part of the treatment. The doctor also migh make a psychological assessment to determine emotional attitudes toward pain. Condition-specific testing can include blood tests, x-rays and nuclear scans. Theese procedures results in a diagnosis and, from there, recommendations for various patient-specific and condition-specific treatment options.


Among the arsenal of treatment modalities available to the pain management specialist are pumps that deliver pain medication intravenously, on demand or at predetermined intervals; implantable devices that block pain signals; oral or injectable pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or cortisone. Other options include physical therapy and behavioral training to reduce sensitivity to pain-inducing stimuli. Your pain-management doctor also might use alternative pain management options such as meditation, hypnosis, biofeedback and acupuncture. Joint replacement surgery is an option for conditions of extreme deterioration that do not respond to non-surgical pain reduction modalities.

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