Sometimes pain is a brief inconvenience, but sometimes it can take over all aspects of your life. A life with constant, excruciating pain flooding your body can impact your life far beyond just physically. Pain can affect your health, wellness, sleep, work, social life, mood, hobbies, and your ability to take care of yourself and others. In addition, pain can have consequences for your mental health and result in anxiety, depression, and insomnia. These all can increase your pain further, which sometimes makes chronic pain feel like a black hole with no way out.
Over 50 million Americans currently live with some form of chronic pain. If you are one of them, have you ever asked yourself: Why should I see a pain management doctor?
You may feel as if you have already seen every possible specialist and failed all of the available treatments. However, board certified and fellowship trained experts in pain management could give you a new lease on life. Keep reading to learn more about chronic pain and how a pain management doctor can help you.
What Is Chronic Pain?
If you injure yourself or undergo surgery, you may experience brief pain, which eventually passes. This is known as acute pain. When pain lasts for three months or longer, it is referred to as chronic pain. Chronic pain can simply be pain from an injury or surgery which never goes away. It can also be a result of arthritis, migraines, joint pain, or nerve issues. This pain is considered a disease state and affects 1 out of 5 adults in America. Chronic pain is hard to diagnose and can be misdiagnosed.
The first step to understanding chronic pain is to understand pain and how it works in the body. The process of experiencing pain is complex and your nervous system and your brain are the major players. The pain circuits in our bodies are built to protect us from harm. For example, if you touch a hot flame, your nervous system will send information to your brain as a sort of alarm system. If your brain decides the alarm is worth paying attention to, the volume is cranked up until the problem is resolved. When you have an ongoing condition that is not resolved, this pain system will fire over and over again. Over time the nervous system can become hyper-alert and will signal the pain all day. It can be very difficult to get the brain to stop reacting this way.
Sometimes these alarms or circuits build long-lasting memories or reflexive actions that prevent injurious behaviors. Simply put, pain circuits have a component that senses injury. These pain circuits then interface with circuits for mood, fatigue, reward and many others. Since pain is integrated with all of these other circuits, pain can affect your life in profound ways.
Chronic pain can create a vicious circle in which your pain prevents you from living your life as you wish, and you become depressed and irritable. This makes you feel tired and interferes with your sleep, diet, and exercise. This causes your pain to get worse and worse if left untreated.
Studies have shown that up to 85 percent of people with chronic pain suffer from severe depression.
What Is a Pain Management Doctor?
A pain management doctor is an expert in their field who has specialized in treating pain. After completing four years of medical school and four years of training in either anesthesiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, or neurology – a doctor must participate in additional fellowship training in pain management. Board certification is then achieved through performing a required number of procedures and passing a specialty-specific rigorous exam of medical knowledge, clinical knowledge, and diagnostic skills.
Unfortunately, not all pain management doctors are fellowship trained. In order to ensure you are receiving the best care possible, verify that the pain management physician you select has fellowship training. At Lone Star Spine & Pain Institute, every physician is fellowship trained and board certified will have the highest qualified physicians addressing your pain.
What treatments do pain management doctors perform?
A pain management doctor may employ minimally invasive techniques such as:
- Nerve blocks
- Steroid injections
- Trigger point injections
- Spinal cord stimulation or peripheral nerve stimulation
- Radiofrequency ablation or Rhizotomy
- Medication management
- Minimally invasive mild® Procedure for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS)
- Biologic injections such as PRP or stem cell injections
- IV Infusions
What specialists do pain management doctors work with?
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic therapy
- Massage therapy
- Psychologists / psychiatrists
- Orthopedic surgeons
What Should I Expect From a Pain Management Doctor?
When you first visit your pain management specialist, you should bring any records of your medical history, surgical history and any imaging you’ve had of your painful area. This will help give your doctor a full overview of your case.
Your doctor will ask you about the history of your pain, carry out a physical exam, and discuss your pain symptoms with you. Here are some questions they may ask:
- What first caused your pain?
- Did your pain start suddenly or come on slowly?
- Where exactly is the pain? Does it radiate anywhere?
- How would you rate the intensity from 1-10?
- How often do you feel this pain?
- How are you currently managing your pain?
- What makes this pain worse? Is there anything that makes it feel better?
- What have you done for this pain?
- What illnesses or surgeries have you had?
When rating your pain, it is important to understand the scale. Some patients may be hesitant to place their pain at a 7 or 8. However, it qualifies if your chronic pain is drastically interfering with your ability to work, sleep, or maintain relationships.
Your pain management doctor for chronic pain may then ask for blood tests, an MRI, X-ray, CT scan, nerve test or other tests to help diagnose the cause of your suffering. Using all of this information together, a pain management doctor will be able to formulate a personalized treatment plan to help find the root cause of your pain and to help alleviate your pain.
Why Should I See a Pain Management Doctor?
Anyone with chronic pain will have experienced the frustration of seeking answers with your primary care physicians or emergency medicine physicians. General doctors only have a few minutes allocated for each patient and emergency medicine physicians only see you once, so identifying the source of pain and reviewing different treatment strategies is not possible.
Unfortunately many patients may have had the experience of being told their pain is all in their head or having their concerns dismissed by their doctor. Some will even be accused of trying to get painkillers because they are addicts. Medications may play a role in your management, but trained pain management providers will take a multi-pronged approach that addresses with what is happening in your mind and body.
With many years of specialized training, a pain management doctor has the expertise to use all available treatments to address various sources of pain. Not all chronic pain is the same, and there may be multiple causes for what is ailing you.
Here are some more benefits of seeing a pain management doctor:
Getting to the Root of the Pain
You won’t be able to get onto the path of recovery until you know what is causing your pain. A pain management doctor has been trained to spot all the potential contributors to your suffering.
Pain in one part of your body could be caused by an issue elsewhere. It could be external, related to weight or posture, or how you sleep. It could be an issue with your nervous system or a mechanical issue.
Some common types of chronic pain are:
- Back pain
- Joint pain / Arthritis
- Neck pain
- Post-surgical pain
- Nerve pain or Neuropathy
- Headache or facial pain
- Abdominal pain
It can be complicated to identify what is at the root of your specific pain condition, but a pain management specialist has the tools to work it out.
Focused Care and Attention
With a pain management doctor, you no longer need to fear a visit to your physician. Trying to get someone to listen and take you seriously can be seriously stressful.
Your specialist will not rush you out after 15 minutes with a handful of prescriptions. They will take the time necessary to listen to you. The treatment they recommend will be fully customized to your personal situation.
You can relax and not feel ashamed or concerned as you describe your symptoms, no matter how strange they may sound to you. Rest assured your doctor has seen many of these symptoms before and understands how pain works.
Open and honest communication is key to getting to the root cause of your chronic pain.
Cutting Edge Therapies
A pain management doctor has access to a wide variety of treatments and other specialists to help you on your path to wellness.
They may start by recommending a home exerciseplan, diet changes, physical therapy or seeing a chiropractor. If your pain continues despite these treatments, they may suggest nerve blocks or steroid injections and put you on a medication plan.
They may also use cutting-edge technologies such as regenerative medicine. This uses stem cells from your own body which are injected back into you to replace abnormal cells. This therapy can treat joint pain in your hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc. Regenerative medicine can also treat spinal arthritis or a torn disc.
Other treatments you may receive include the surgical placement of nerve stimulator or a pump that holds pain medication and is programmed to release targeted doses of the drug.
Your pain management specialist will look at all possible approaches to your recovery.
The Latest Research
Chronic pain has long been a mystery, but there are constantly new studies about the condition. Pain management field is rapidly developing, and our specialists f you can be sure that your pain management doctor will be aware of all the latest advances and discoveries.
The Path to Pain-Free Living
Chronic pain can leave you exhausted, desperate, and in agony. Are you still wondering: Why should I see a pain management doctor?
If your other physicians or even other pain management specialists have not been able to assist you, it is time see an expert.
Lone Star Spine & Pain Institute offers customized and compassionate treatment plans for each patient. Our patients come first and we do everything we can to restore their quality of life.
Schedule an appointment today to redefine your pain and break free from its effects on your life.