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A pain management consultant is a doctor who specializes in treating pain, including acute and chronic pain. Many of these physicians have a background in anesthesiology, with special training in pain management. They can be called in to consult on a case where a patient is experiencing pain, and patients can also see a pain management consultant independently for assistance with managing their pain. These doctors can work in hospital and clinical settings, including hospices.
Treatment of pain can be medically challenging, especially in the case of chronic pain. A pain management consultant is familiar with the wide library of options for pain management, including medications, electrical stimulation of nerves, and surgeries. These professionals also keep up with progress in the field through professional publications, conferences, and continuing education, with the goal of providing the best services possible to their patients.
In cases where a patient is experiencing acute pain in association with surgery or an injury, the pain management consultant can assist with controlling the pain, using tools like nerve blocks and medication. Postoperative pain can sometimes be severe and nurses may ask a patient's surgeon to consider a consult if they feel a patient's pain is not being adequately managed. For some surgeries where severe postoperative pain is a known problem, the surgeon and pain management consultant may meet with the patient before the surgery to discuss options and develop a plan for keeping the patient comfortable after surgery.
A patient with chronic pain may also benefit from seeing a pain management consultant. A common problem with chronic pain is the development of tolerance to pain medications, forcing the patient to take higher doses over time. The pain management consultant can help manage the patient's medications to make sure they stay effective for pain, while also addressing concerns about the use of habit-forming drugs. Chronic pain can also shift over time and a doctor can work with the patient to modify the treatment plan as the nature of the pain changes.
The development of pain management as a specialty has increased patient access to appropriate pain management. Many patients with chronic pain report difficulty with obtaining consistent pain management because doctors don't understand the nature of their conditions or think they are drug seeking. Working with a specialist with thorough training in this field can increase the chances of being provided with multiple pain management options so patients can develop effective plans for the management of their pain.