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What Is a Pain Specialist and How Can They Help You Manage Chronic Pain?

What Is a Pain Specialist and How Can They Help You Manage Chronic Pain?Photo from Unsplash

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About one in five Americans struggle with chronic pain. That’s 50.2 billion US adults (20.5% of adults in the country).

Chronic pain causes about $300 billion annually in lost productivity, too.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain, it doesn’t have to impact your quality of life. Instead, consider visiting a pain doctor this year.

What does a pain management doctor do, exactly? Keep reading to find out. After reading this guide, you can determine if visiting a pain specialist is right for you.

Read on to learn more about pain management doctors today!

What is a Pain Doctor?

First, let’s cover the basics. What exactly is a pain doctor?

Pain management doctors specialize in pain relief. They can address chronic pain that’s due to a:

  • Disease
  • Medical condition
  • Injury

Their treatments can range between talk therapy (psychotherapy), physical therapy, and medications. The best pain specialists will customize your treatment based on your distinct needs.

Pain specialists are sometimes trained as physiatrists and anesthesiologists as well. Others specialize as orthopedic doctors. You might want to find a pain specialist based on your distinct needs.

Some healthcare providers are also doctors of osteopathy (DO) or medical doctors (MDs). A physician assistant (PA), nurse practitioner (NP), or nurse (RN) might assist as well.

In some cases, you or a loved one might require treatment from a palliative care specialist. These specialists help manage pain due to chronic illnesses like cancer.

Pain management doctors can specialize in other types of pain, such as:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Nerve pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer pain
  • Arthritis pain
  • Neck and spine pain

Make sure you find a qualified, experienced, certified pain specialist before seeking treatment. Many specialists are members of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). Others are certified by the American Board of Pain Medicine.

Reviewing their credentials will give you peace of mind.

Reasons to Visit a Specialist

Your primary care doctor might refer you to a pain management doctor to ensure you receive the proper care. Talk to your primary care physician about the benefits of visiting a specialist. They can help you make an informed choice before you seek treatment.

In some cases, you can only manage your pain, rather than cure it. Your pain doctor might use a combination of treatments for a greater effect.

You could benefit from visiting a specialist if you:

  • Develop a new type of pain
  • Can’t manage pain with prescribed medications
  • Continue to have breakthrough pain between doses
  • Experience side effects from medications
  • Can’t sleep
  • Can’t perform normal daily activities
  • Want to take an active role in pain management

Finding a specialized healthcare provider might help you better manage your pain.

What Does a Pain Management Doctor Do?

What does a pain management doctor do to help ease your pain?

These specialists are trained in different techniques and procedures for diagnosing and managing pain symptoms. They’ll also have a better understanding of (and therefore compassion for) your condition.

During your initial appointment, your pain doctor will discuss your medical history. Try to keep a record of your symptoms before your appointment. For example, when do you notice your symptoms flare up?

Your doctor will also review the medications you’re currently on. They might review prior diagnoses, X-rays, and lab results as well. Then, they’ll perform a medical exam.

Before your appointment, prepare yourself to answer questions like:

  • How does the pain feel (is it dull, burning, or sharp)
  • Where is the pain
  • How long have you had these symptoms
  • When does the pain occur and how often
  • What makes the pain feel worse
  • What helps your pain
  • Do you have any other symptoms
  • Rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10

Once your pain specialist gains a better understanding of your symptoms, they can build your treatment plan.

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to developing an effective treatment. Your doctor might request an MRI, CT scan, or X-ray to gather more information.

If your pain lasts six months or more, you’ve developed chronic pain. Chronic pain can range between mild and severe. Some forms of chronic pain can include:

  • Whiplash
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Sciatica
  • Vertebral compression fracture
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Cervical and/or lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Facet joint pain

For spine-related pain, they might use other tests like bone scans and nerve studies. They might consider discography or myelography, too.


In some cases, your doctor might recommend medications for managing your pain. They’ll prescribe medication based on the root cause of your symptoms.

For example, the medication for a migraine, cancer pain, or nerve pain can differ from pain due to joint inflammation.

For example, your pain doctor might prescribe:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Anesthetics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • NSAIDs
  • Acetaminophen
  • Local injections
  • Opioids

Make sure you review any potential side effects you could experience with your doctor before you start taking them. If you experience side effects, let your doctor know right away. Don’t exceed the recommended dose, either.

Don’t stop suddenly taking your medications without your doctor’s consent.

Non-Drug Options

About 10% of the world’s population experiences chronic pain. Low back pain is the most common type of chronic pain. People spend about $77.8 billion treating their chronic pain, but medication isn’t always effective.

Instead, talk to your pain management doctors about non-drug treatment options.

They might also recommend supplemental treatments like physical therapy, talk therapy, or exercise. Other non-drug options for pain management can include:

  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Rehabilitation massage therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations (TENS)
  • Acupuncture
  • Ultrasound
  • Ice/heat therapy
  • Spinal cord stimulation

If you’re worried about developing an addiction to your pain medication, talk to your pain doctor about these alternative treatments.

Ease the Pain: Consider Visiting a Pain Doctor Today

Don’t let your chronic pain impact your quality of life. Instead, consider visiting a pain doctor to determine the root cause of your symptoms. The best pain specialist can help develop a customized treatment plan.

With their help, you can manage your pain symptoms and get back to living a full life.

Eager to visit your new pain management doctor? We can’t wait to help.

Schedule an appointment at our offices today to get started.

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