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What Doctors Treat Pain?

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When you have pain that sticks with you longer than you thought it would -- like back pain or an old injury that flares up -- you may want to add a new expert to your medical team.

Just like there are many kinds of pain, there are different types of specialists who treat it.  Your regular doctor can recommend the kind that you should see.

For instance, if you have pain as a result of cancer, you would go to a different doctor than someone who has pain from a past car accident.

7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Pain Specialist

Pick a doctor who:

  1. Has the training and experience in treating your specific type of pain. Most will have done a pain medicine “fellowship,” which is training above and beyond a doctor’s training in a specialty.
  2. Is “board-certified,” which means they have passed in-depth tests, called boards, in the field of anesthesiology, neurology, or physical medicine and rehab
  3. Listens well
  4. Seems trustworthy
  5. Has a good reputation in the medical community
  6. Encourages you to ask questions
  7. Allows you to disagree

The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine also recommends that you ask the doctor:

  • How they would treat you
  • Who they would refer you to for things like counseling or complementary therapies
  • How you would reach them if you have any concerns
  • What their general approach is to managing pain

What You’ll Need to Provide

At your first appointment, you'll probably get a complete physical exam and talk with the doctor about your pain. She'll want to know:

  • Where it hurts
  • How it feels (For instance: does it burn, ache, feel like pins and needles, pound, feel tight or tender?)
  • When your pain first started
  • How bad it is (such as on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible)
  • What you think may have caused it
  • Any medicines you take for it, or other treatments you’ve tried
  • What makes it worse or better

It can help to keep a pain diary, where you write down how you feel each day. When you share those notes with your doctors, it lets them know more about what the problem might be and what treatment to try.

Your pain doctor and your regular doctor will work closely together to help you feel better ASAP. They may also recommend that you get physical therapy or occupational therapy, massage, acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation, biofeedback, or counseling, depending on how pain has affected you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 20, 2015
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