A pain management doctor is a physician who helps treat and manage patients’ pain. Such physicians may be trained in a variety of specialties such as anesthesiology, neurology or physical rehabilitation. They often treat both chronic and acute forms of pain, arising from a variety of health conditions.
To become a pain management doctor, one must usually earn a bachelor’s degree, then attend medical school and complete a residency that deals at least in part with pain management. Many pain management doctors often go on to seek further certifications through organizations such as the American Board of Pain Medicine if practicing in the United States. They may also seek additional training in non-traditional forms of pain treatment, such as acupuncture.
A pain management specialist is usually part of a larger team of doctors who are working together to help treat a patient. For example, in obstetrics, a special kind of pain doctor called an anesthesiologist often works along side an obstetrician to provide pain relief during childbirth. Similarly, anesthesiologists often work with surgeons to provide pain relief for patients undergoing operations. They may also prescribe acute pain relief therapy for patients recovering from injuries, such as broken bones and illnesses like shingles or cancer.
In addition to treating acute pain related to surgery, trauma or illness, an anesthesiologist or other pain management doctor may also help treat lasting, chronic pain. Such pain may be caused, for example, by multiple sclerosis, arthritis or degenerating discs in the spine. For these types of chronic pain, treatment is usually an ongoing process and often requires significant participation from the patient.
To treat either acute or chronic pain, a pain management doctor may employ a variety of therapies. These may include medications, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation and psychological counseling. The goal of all of these therapies is to help reduce pain, though some therapies may also help treat the underlying problem, such as in the case of physical therapy.
Several common types of pain management therapy may involve working with the nerves. One such nerve treatment is a nerve block. This involves injecting medication into a set of nerves to keep them from sending pain signals to the brain. A similar, but non-medicated, nerve-related therapy is electrical nerve stimulation. This generally works by stimulating the nerves under the skin to distract them from other signals that may be sending pain messages to the brain.