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What to Expect from a Pain Management Doctor 

Date: October 4, 2022

Pain can emerge from medical operations, injury, illness, and disease. Chronic pain can last years, but it can be curbed through a comprehensive treatment plan. 

Patients can get antibiotic prescriptions, labs, and treatment at a doctor's office, pain clinic, or hospital. Doctors assist you in managing pain using general methods such as pain medications. 

Acute pain can develop into chronic pain, and you may need more specialized pain management. Administration of pain therapies to manage pain symptoms are one of the answers to what to expect from a pain management doctor.   

Who is a pain management doctor? 

Pain management experts use drugs, surgery, and other wide arrays of treatment plans to treat pain at its source. A pain management doctor addresses both acute and chronic pain, such as headaches and back pain, by diagnosing and treating the condition, 

Pain physicians have many educational options on pain management, and they undergo years of schooling with an added specialty in pain management. After a standard residency, these doctors do a one-year fellowship in pain management and are board-certified in a specific field, such as cancer pain or sports injuries. 

Advanced-trained pain management professionals evaluate, diagnose, and treat pain, and they're best for illness or accident-related discomfort. They are certified to diagnose, treat, and manage pain, and some doctors are even dual board-certified in other medical specialties like rheumatology, orthopedics, GI, psychiatry, or other specializations. 

Chronic pain is diverse, and through fellowship training that pain doctors go through, they are able to use interventional pain therapies such as injections, spinal cord stimulation, and intrathecal morphine pumps to manage the pain. 

What to expect from a pain management doctor 

A consultation with a pain management doctor

Pain management doctors first pinpoint the source of your pain and underlying issues. After identifying the source of your pain, a pain management specialist can decide the best course of treatment for you. 

When conventional treatments fail, pain management experts do their own research and trials. They utilize nonsurgical, interventional, and alternative approaches like massage, acupuncture, exercise, yoga, meditation, PT, dietary changes, and chiropractic care to minimize medication or avoid surgery. 

1. Diagnosis of pain  

We've all felt pain, whether it's a headache or bruise. Your body uses pain to warn of problems, and you should always inform your doctor about how you feel. 

Pain specialists use step-by-step diagnosis to find the source of pain. They start with a basic description of the area under pain and its history, then progress into a more specific diagnosis using intricate equipment specialized for that function. 

Finding out what's causing your discomfort is the first step in managing it. Your pain may be described as one of several different things, depending on its origin, location, and intensity: 

  • Throbbing 
  • Sharp 
  • A burning, a dull ache, or a persistent irritation. 
  • Intense or intensely stinging (like electric shocks). 

Many people can't describe the pain, and to help, you can consider telling your doctor: 

  • What hurts 
  • When the pains started 
  • When does it hurt? 
  • If the pain is seasonal 
  • How's it going 
  • Any other symptoms 
  • Any treatments you have tried besides prescription and nonprescription drugs 

The pain management doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 0 to 10 to confirm the pain severity. You may be asked to document your daily pain, where you feel pain, and if it gets worse with certain activities. 

You should tell your doctor if it stays in one place or radiates to other parts of your body. 

Acute Pain and Chronic Pain 

There are two kinds of pain. Acute pain starts suddenly and only lasts for a short time. It goes away as your body heals; you might feel acute pain after surgery or if you have a broken bone. 

Chronic pain may last for more than three months or longer and often affects older people or people with health conditions such as arthritis. Chronic pain may also follow acute pain from an injury, surgery, or other health issues that have been treated. 

Adjusting to life with any type of pain can be difficult as it can cause many other problems. Nobody should suffer from pain though most pain can be managed, not cured. 

Pain medication side effects are usually tolerable, and first-time painkiller users may experience constipation, dry mouth, and tiredness. Many of these concerns can be handled and may fade as your body adjusts. 

No one except you understands your pain and when sick, see a doctor. They won't regard you differently of you if you tell them about your pain. 

2. Treatment of pain  

A medical specialty known as Algiatry or pain medicine focuses on preventing pain and evaluating, treating, and rehabilitating patients who are in pain. A general doctor can begin pain treatment with over-the-counter medications and physical therapy. 

For more advanced treatment, you will need a pain management doctor. Treatment of pain starts with a step-by-step process after diagnosis for effective pain management. 

Types of pain  

Pain can be the problem brought to the office of the doctor, or it can be the symptom of a condition. Postoperative pain and back pain, for example, are conditions in which pain is the primary problem, while migraines and headaches are examples of conditions in which pain constitutes the symptoms.  

Pain can be categorized into three: 

1. The first type of pain is caused by a direct injury to the tissue 

2. The second form of pain can be caused by an illness or injury to the neurological system SCI: spinal cord injury, stroke, or TBI: traumatic brain injury are just a few of the conditions that can result from a spinal brain cord or nerve injury.  

3. Tissue and nerve damage can cause a third sort of mixed pain, such as back pain.  

There are various forms of this pain that a pain management doctor can help alleviate, including but aren't limited to the following. 

Types of pain treated by a pain doctor 

Pain medication which is one of the things of what to expect from a pain management doctor

Joint pain is a common symptom of a variety of arthritis conditions, including osteoarthritis, gout, and others. Frozen shoulder is one example of an orthopedic injury that causes discomfort and stiffness in addition to limiting movement.  

Some of the pain treated by pain management doctors include: 

Your body's own immune system can cause a range of problems if it attacks itself.  

  • Back injuries, such as herniated disks, sciatica, and other back disorders, are major causes of pain and restricted movement. 
  • Chronic pain: It is possible to have a variety of conditions that cause you to feel pain throughout your body. Fibromyalgia, CRPS, and CPS are a few of the more common types of chronic pain. 
  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis is a condition that causes stomach pain and irregular menstruation. The uterine lining grows outside of the uterine walls causing pain. 
  • Facial pain can be caused by suicide disease (trigeminal neuralgia), an abscessed tooth, and other dental issues. 
  • Migraines and cluster headaches are two common types of headaches that affect the neck and head. 
  • There is a strong correlation between urinary tract disorders and the presence of kidney stones (pee). Patients with interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) experience pelvic discomfort and pressure. 
  • Damage to the nerves, often known as neuropathy, can cause numbness, tingling, and other unpleasant sensations. A common kind of neuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome.  

Self-care methods like RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) can relieve bone, muscular, and soft tissue pain. Apply ice or a cold compress in 20-minute intervals to reduce swelling and pain. 

Your doctor may advise counseling or meditation to help you cope with chronic pain-related negative feelings. Some people journal about pain to better comprehend it, which can help your doctor plan your treatment. 

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and biofeedback can help control chronic pain. Doctors may also recommend pilates workouts, yoga, tai chi, swimming, or walking, which can help alleviate chronic pain, improve posture, and improve bodily function. 

Osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) and chiropractic adjustments are frequent pain treatments where the therapist uses many hands-on techniques to reduce pain, improve posture, and boost health. 

Injections or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can relieve nerve discomfort (TENS). 

Certain lifestyle changes can ease discomfort as less chronic pain means a healthier diet, more water, more sleep, and less stress. Your doctor may recommend weight loss if you're overweight or obese. 

Certain pain medications (like opioids) can be addictive. Always follow your doctor's or pharmacist's prescriptions.  

3. Follow-up 

Keep a daily pain notebook to track your pain as it facilitates communication with your doctor. Pain can interfere with sleeping, working, and hobbies, but through methods such as meditation, moderate stretches, and massage, you can help relieve discomfort. 

You'll also learn what causes your pain (stress, lack of sleep, diet) as the treatment continues. You might note whether you're depressed, anxious, or having trouble sleeping. 

Keeping a pain journal might help you gain control and confidence by indirectly telling the doctor what's up. Your doctor can prescribe pain management techniques and medicines to treat these conditions. 

The pain management Clinic  

A pain management clinic is an outpatient medical facility with many doctors and other health care providers who diagnose and treat chronic pain. Chronic pain sufferers may benefit from pain clinics. 

Some of the professionals you may find in a pain clinic include: 

  • Medical professionals 
  • Psychologists 
  • Physical therapists 
  • Occupational and vocational therapists. 
  • Dietitians/nutritionists 

These clinics offer pharmacological, physical, behavioral, and psychological therapy, and they may also educate you about your pain, recommend lifestyle changes, and offer a complementary or alternative treatment. By effectively managing your chronic pain, you can return to normal daily routines and activities such as work. 

Multispecialty pain management centers have many doctors that treat a whole spectrum of pain. If one specialist or specialization is more important than the others, its preferred therapy will be promoted, and others will be disregarded. 

Multispecialty pain practices and clinics hold regular multispecialty case conferences. Case conferences are like executive-level board meetings where people from diverse backgrounds work together to solve an issue. Without them, specialties don't interact. 

A patient may need more interventions, while another may need more psychological care. Patients may benefit from various therapies and therefore need doctors who can recommend them to others. 

What to look for in a pain management doctor 

Clipboard saying ask you doctor, indicating you should speak to you doctor about any concerns before treatment

Pain management is often a long-term procedure, so select a trusted doctor. You should choose a doctor with whom you're comfortable. 

Other skills to look for in a pain management specialist are the ability to examine patients with complicated pain disorders and a complete understanding of diagnostic testing to find the source of your pain. Find a clinic with pain specialists and ask if the doctor has pain-treatment training and certification. 

Your pain management professional will treat your pain and organize physical therapy, rehabilitation, and counseling. A good pain management program will work with you and your family to build a plan and monitor progress and provide feedback.  

You'll also want a doctor with access to a strong network of outside providers to refer patients for physical therapy, psychological support, or surgical evaluation and a reputation for appropriately prescribing pain medication.  

Lastly, it's crucial that pain management treatment corresponds with each patient's wishes and belief system, so flexibility in treatment options is also important. 

Frequently asked questions 

Does visiting a pain management doctor work? 

A pain management doctor does a physical examination and prescribes additional testing if needed. They narrow down to a clear picture of the pain through various diagnosis methods. 
Multiple studies say folks who have comprehensive pain management have less pain and emotional distress. Research says they also can do their daily tasks easier. 

What are the advantages of pain management?

In addition to better pain control, you may notice an improvement in your physical and emotional well-being, an improvement in your interpersonal and professional connections, and a reduction in your level of discomfort. 
A well-rounded approach to pain treatment can alleviate your symptoms on both a physical and emotional level. Even if you can't get rid of your pain completely, you may be able to lessen it or change how you react to it. 
A pain management program can improve the quality of life for many people who suffer from chronic pain. 


About Dr. Sean Ormond
Dr. Sean Ormond in black medical uniform and black fog background
Dr. Sean Ormond is dual board-certified in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Management. He completed his anesthesia residency at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio where he served as Chief Resident, followed by an interventional pain management fellowship at Rush University in Chicago, IL. Following fellowship, Dr. Ormond moved to Phoenix and has been practicing in the Valley for a few years before deciding to start his own practice.