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    See a Pain Expert

    If you have chronic pain -- and treatment isn't helping enough -- you may need to see an expert. Unlike other doctors, pain specialists are focused on one thing: relieving pain. Take some time to learn more about pain specialists and how to find one.

    Why a Pain Expert?

    If your primary doctor can't seem to control your pain, a pain specialist may help.

    Chronic pain isn't just a symptom, it's a condition in its own right. Think of it like any chronic disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Just as you may need to see a cardiologist for heart problems, you may need to see a pain specialist for hard-to-treat pain.

    Pain specialists are experts in using many treatments to bring pain under control -- medication, injections, exercises, surgery, acupuncture, and more.

    Which Pain Expert?

    The best pain specialist depends on the cause of your pain and the treatment you need.

    * Anesthesiologists treat chronic pain with meds, injected painkillers, or implanted devices.

    * Neurologists and neurosurgeons treat damaged nerves or migraines.

    * Psychiatrists use drugs, talk therapy, mind-body treatments, and other methods to help you cope with pain.

    * Physiatrists help with rehab, physical therapy, and muscle strengthening to ease pain.

    Find a Pain Expert

    How can you find a pain expert?

    * Start by asking your doctor for a referral.

    * Call a local hospital or medical center and ask if they have a department of pain management. Find out what kind of specialists they have on staff and what services they offer. Ask about a consultation.

    * Use the American Academy of Pain Management web site to find a local pain specialist or clinic.

    Pain Clinics

    If there's one nearby, a specialty pain clinic may be the best place to get treatment. Why? You'll have access to a wider set of treatments than you can get from a single doctor.

    Chronic pain often requires a combination of different approaches. At a pain clinic, you may be able to see lots of pain experts -- from neurologists to therapists to acupuncturists -- in one place. These providers can work together to best serve your needs. Together, you can develop a customized treatment plan.

    Meet a Pain Expert

    Consider your first meeting with a pain specialist an interview to see how compatible you are. Here's some info to gather and assess:

    * Experience helping people with pain like yours

    * Specialty areas and board certifications

    * Attitude the doctor and staff take with your pain and other concerns

    * Willingness and reliable process to coordinate care with your other doctors

    * Your expected role in choosing the treatment approach

    Describe Your Pain

    To give your primary doctor as well as a pain specialist a full chance to treat your pain, practice describing these specifics:

    * Exactly where it hurts

    * How the pain feels --  dull, throbbing, aching, or sharp

    * Duration and frequency of pain -- is it steady or does it come and go?

    * What eases your pain and what makes your pain worse

    The better your new doctor gets to know you as a person, the better equipped he or she will be to help you with your pain problem.

    Realistic Expectations

    Don't assume a pain specialist will be able to make pain disappear. That's not always possible. You need to have realistic expectations.

    Even if a pain specialist can't take away all of your pain, he or she should be able to:

    * Help you find solutions to better relieve your pain

    * Improve your functioning, making it easier to do day-to-day things

    * Improve your quality of life

    When you meet with a pain specialist, ask what you can expect from treatment and listen carefully to the answer.

    WebMD Medical Reference

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