A pain doctor, also called a pain specialist or pain management specialist, is a medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) who specializes in pain medicine. Pain medicine is a medical specialty that focuses on the evaluation, treatment, and prevention of pain.
Pain doctors specialize in the management of pain as a symptom of disease (eudynia) and primary pain disorders (maldynia). They treat patients who experience pain related to a specific cause (e.g., disease such as cancer pain , injury, postoperative pain) and patients who suffer pain as a primary condition (e.g., frequent headaches , neuropathic pain).
Pain management specialists often serve as consultants to other physicians and health care providers (e.g., physical therapists) and coordinate patient care. They diagnose conditions, provide treatment (e.g., prescribe medication and rehabilitation services, perform procedures to relieve pain), and counsel patients and their families. Pain doctors work in a variety of settings, such as private practices, hospitals, and pain clinics.
Primary care physicians often are the first to treat patients who experience pain. These doctors (e.g., family practitioners, internists , pediatricians) play an important role in pain management, and often work with pain management specialists as part of a medical team.
Pain doctors may specialize in one of the following areas:
- Back and neck pain
- Cancer pain
- Chronic pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
- Neuropathic pain
- Orofacial pain
- Palliative care
- Pelvic pain
Pain management specialists use a number of techniques to diagnose and treat pain disorders. Pain evaluations often include taking a personal and family medical history, assessing the patient’s lifestyle (e.g., activity level), reviewing prior tests (e.g., blood tests, imaging tests, electrodiagnostic studies), and performing a physical examination.
Treatment for pain varies, depending on the cause. Some treatments are designed to reduce pain, and some are designed to help patients manage pain. Methods used to relieve pain include the following:
- Implantable devices (e.g., pumps, stimulators)
- Injections (e.g., corticosteroids)
- Nerve blocks
- Physical therapy (also occupational therapy and recreational therapy)
- Surgery (e.g., joint replacement, spinal surgery, peripheral nerve surgery)
- Trigger point injections
In some cases, pain management specialists use complementary methods (e.g., biofeedback, relaxation, hypnosis , meditation , acupuncture , cognitive behavioral therapy) to help patients manage symptoms.