Chronic pain can disrupt people's lives, their ability to work, sleep, and other activities spent with friends and family. When chronic pain interferes with the quality of life and standard treatments such as pain relievers do not work, pain management doctors can help.
There are a number of effective and proven treatments that can help manage chronic pain. Consulting and seeking treatment from pain management doctors as soon as possible can help you start enjoying your life again.
What is a pain management doctor?
A pain management doctor is a physician with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of pain. Their specialty makes them a more suitable fit for people who suffer from pain. Although primary care providers can diagnose and treat different types of pain, they usually refer patients with advanced types of pain to pain management doctors.
After residency, pain management doctors have a one-year pain medicine fellowship program. They are also board-certified. Pain management doctors often treat patients with chronic pain, but they may also treat those who are affected by cancer pain and pain that is related to sports injuries.
If pain persists for three months or more, it is considered chronic. Chronic pain can also be difficult to diagnose and may take months or years of treatment. Some pain patients may even require lifelong care and treatment.
What are the conditions treated by pain management doctors?
Below are some of the conditions that pain management doctors evaluate, diagnose, and treat:
1. General Pain
Millions of people suffer from acute and chronic pain each year, making pain one of the major contributors to national health care spending. Pain is usually associated with different types of diseases and injuries. It is also one of the most common complaints of people who seek medical care. In fact, there are more Americans who suffer from pain than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined. The following conditions are regarded as general types of pain:
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Neuropathic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
- Torn meniscus
2. Neck and Head Pain
It is common for people to experience headaches from time to time. However, having chronic headaches can be very debilitating to some people, limiting their functionality and quality of life. There are many headaches caused by neck pain. For this reason, it is very important to look for healthcare providers who specialize in finding the exact source of pain.
- Acute headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Tension headaches
- Migraine headaches
- Secondary headaches (cervicogenic headaches)
- Cervical injuries
- Nervous system disease
- Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux)
- Occipital neuralgia (ON)
- Chronic facial pain
- Neck pain
- Motor vehicle injury
3. Abdominal, Chest, and Groin Pain
Pain management doctors also diagnose and treat pain in the abdomen, groin, and chest. Pain in these areas can be hard to diagnose and treat, but advances in medicine have greatly helped with the process. Pain in these regions include:
- Chest pain
- Chest wall pain (costochondritis, chest trauma)
- Abdominal pain
- Pelvic Pain
- Inguinal neuralgia
- Post-thoracotomy pain
4. Back Pain
Back pain affects 7 in 10 people in America each year, making it one of the leading causes of doctor visits and time away from work. There are a variety of back pain causes, but people who have chronic back pain often live limited quality of life. The types of back pain managed by pain doctors include:
- Upper Back Pain
- Lower Back Pain
- Thoracic Pain
- Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
- Prolapsed disc
- Bulging and herniated disc
- Post-laminectomy syndrome
- Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS)
- Facet joint syndrome
- Spine surgery pain
- Spinal stenosis
- Vertebral compression fracture
- Vertebral body fracture
5. Pain in the Upper Extremities
A torn rotator cuff in the shoulder is one of the most common injuries of the upper extremity. Athletes, both recreational and professional, may experience elbow injuries, including golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis) and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).
Pain in the upper extremities, such as fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, can also be caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, arm pain, tingling, and numbness are experienced by individuals with nerve damage in the back.
Other conditions that affect these areas are:
6. Pain in the Lower Extremities
The most common type of knee injury is a meniscus tear. Athletes who play contact sports are more prone to having knee injuries since they are required to apply pressure and force as they pivot using their knees. Although knee injuries are more commonly seen among athletes, anyone of any age can also get a torn meniscus.
People who experience pain in the hips can be due to sciatica, arthritis, or nerve damage in the back. Other painful conditions in the lower extremities include:
- Leg pain
- Groin pain
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain
- Testicular pain
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Foot pain
- Heel spur
- Disc extrusion
- Hip osteoarthritis
- Hip bursitis
- Piriformis syndrome
Other Pain Conditions
- Sports injuries
- Workers compensation pain cases
- Reflex pain
- Nerve damage (diabetic peripheral neuropathy)
- Phantom limb pain (PLP)
- Chronic pain in children and adolescents
- Cancer pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
Chronic pain can also have unclear causes. Even though obvious medical conditions, such as arthritis, cancer, and certain congenital issues can cause pain, a number of cases have very complex sources of chronic pain, making pain quite difficult to treat. For this reason, pain management doctors are often part of a multidisciplinary management team that focuses on providing the best treatment care for pain patients.
Generally, chronic pain treatments concentrate on helping patients achieve relief from their symptoms and treatment of underlying conditions. However, these treatments also depend on the severity of the patient's overall health condition and medical history.
Pain management programs tend to be a success when they provide treatments that are specifically tailored for each of their patients. The following are some of the most common chronic pain treatments used in pain management programs:
- Multidisciplinary approach
- Prescribed medications
- Electrical stimulation (e-stim)