We all have our own perceptions about how our pain must be treated, as do the pain specialists who treat us. Some of us are open-minded about all available treatments, others not.
Maybe we have gone through pricey medicine trials or treatments that somehow didn’t work. Perhaps opioids worked well, but our provider is no longer at ease prescribing them. Maybe there are no alternative treatments available to us. That makes the right fit between patient and pain doctor essential.
Are all pain doctors the same? Barely. Pain management specialists have unique clinical backgrounds and pain management board certifications. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine says the American College of Graduate Medical Education presently recognizes three pain management board certifications.
A Quick Overlook of Doctors – Your Cheatsheet
Requirements for eligibility for a subspecialty board certification in pain management include board certification and fellowship as an anesthesiologist, neurologist or physiatrist.
A 10-Point Plan for Professionals (Without Being Overwhelmed)
Anesthesiology – A huge number of pain professionals are anesthesiologists. They perform interventional procedures, like epidurals and implantable devices (for example, pain pumps or nerve stimulators), and some do ultrasound-steered trigger point injections. A lot also prescribe medications for pain.
Neurology – A neurologist may belong to a pain management group and perform the exact procedures an anesthesiologist does, or concentrate on managing nerve pain-causing conditions such as diabetes and chronic migraine. They also perform diagnostics procedures such as electromyography (EMG), and offer pain control via medication.
Physiatry -Physiatrists, by training, are rehabilitation physicians focusing on physical and occupational therapy, movement, and determining contributory factors to pain. Those who have a pain management subspecialty also conduct interventional procedures, prescribe pain medication and implant medical devices as part of chronic pain management.
Notwithstanding their main specialty, you want a pain doctor who is a good diagnostician and practices an approach that you feel is effective for you.
The following are other considerations as you look for a pain specialist:
Is the doctor in your insurance network?
Is his bedside manner acceptable to you?
How wide is his experience?
Does he perform a comprehensive physical exam?
Is he in a rush to perform an interventional procedure on your initial consultation? This is a negative sign.
Does he explain your treatment plan, ensuring you understand it very well?
Does he provide and discuss all your options, like physical therapy or opioid therapy and its risks and benefits?
Does he use a patient-driven care model and take your ideas seriously when coming up with a plan?
Lastly, does the doctor feel like the right fit for you? Personality matters for sure. If you don’t have chemistry with your pain doctor, your confidence in his ability to cure or manage your pain will be reduced. And as pain is substantially subjective, this will also diminish your treatment’s efficacy.