Millions of Americans experience chronic pain. Initially, they may believe that their pain may lessen over time, and all they need is the ability to have the time to recover from their source of pain. Injury may occur from a fall, a bad car accident, or even a botched surgery. Initially, the individual may try no remedies, and then move to conservative methods. Then, the individual may begin to have regular visits with their primary care physician (PCP). But at some point, both the patient and the PCP realize this pain is chronic and needs to be managed. The PCP recommends the patient to find a physician who specializes in pain management. And you start to feel overwhelmed.
Pain comes in all forms; acute, chronic, and cancer pain. It’s possible to also have different combinations (to varying degrees) of these types of pains simultaneously. The most important thing is to have a knowledgable physician who understands the complexities of pain. This requires a doctor to have specialized medical background, with specific standards of training.
It is incredibly important for a patient to do their research on any potential pain management doctor. Physicians who specialize in managing pain will typically have educational and training backgrounds in anesthesiology. These physicians will be associated with fellowship programs in neurology and physical rehabilitation. It is incredibly important for pain management physicians to have these standards of education incorporated in their educational history because this type of medicine is incredibly individualized for each patient. The important thing for a patient to understand is that these fellowships occur after graduating from medical school. Physicians who specialize in pain management also become board certified by The American Board of Psychiatry, the American Board of Neurology, and/or the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. These certifications are important because they are the only ones that are recognized for pain management.
So now you know what to look for in a physicians CV, but will they be able to help you? A good chronic pain physician will do certain things. They will take a highly detailed medical history, a thorough physical exam, and review any procedures or tests you may have had. Then they will discuss with you what your options are, what potential tests they may still need you to do, and what your treatment options are. Chronic pain has physical and emotional ramifications, and it is so crucial for a patient to have a good rapport with their physician. You want to feel assured that your arthritis doctor is both knowledgeable and empathetic to your specific condition. No two chronic pain patients will have identical management plans. Sometimes medication is not required, but simple physical therapy. Maybe the patient only needs a regimen of injections every few months. Treatment plans should be individualized to that specific patient’s needs and concerns. Treatment should always be tailored to the diagnosis. And most importantly, you want to feel heard and validated by the physician who manages your chronic pain.