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See a Pain Expert

If you have chronic pain -- and treatment isn't helping enough -- you need to see an expert. Unlike other doctors, pain specialists are focused on one thing: relieving pain. Take a few days 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 can 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 is 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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