Pain Management Doctors: What They do, How to Find One

pain management doctors

Have you ever wondered exactly what a pain management doctor does? In other words, how is pain managed? And do they treat fibromyalgia? The American Academy of Pain Medicine explains that “the practice of pain medicine is multi-disciplinary in approach, incorporating modalities from various specialties to ensure the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of the pain patient.” As part of the interdisciplinary approach, the field includes “such specialties as anesthesiology, internal medicine, neurology, neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, physiatry, and psychiatry.”

Someone who specializes in pain management is trained in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating different types of pain, including acute and chronic pain, as well as cancer pain and any combination of those. An interdisciplinary approach means they address the various reasons whey pain can arise in the first place. Trauma, surgery, accidents, injuries, nerve damage, as well as diseases and various conditions like fibromyalgia are some of the many reasons why pain develops. And then there are those for whom pain arises without any apparent reason at all. So the practice of pain management focuses on treating any and all kinds of pain.

Pain Management Doctors

Pain Clinics for Fibromyalgia?

Generally speaking, there are two types of pain clinics. According to the Arthritis Foundation: “One is for procedures, such as injections to deal with specific areas of pain, for example, neck and back pain. The other offers integrative services, which include medications as well as physical, behavioral and psychological therapies,” explains Eric Matteson, MD, professor of medicine and rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Recall that fibromyalgia includes widespread pain. Sometimes this can feel localized to certain regions of the body and other times it can feel like your whole body is just one gigantic ache. While you may be aware of certain triggers, more frequently there is simply no specific reason for the pain.

It turns out that a 2009 study found an interdisciplinary approach was effective in treating fibromyalgia symptoms. This was especially true when treatment plans were tailored to the individual needs of the patient. That is the kind of treatment you can get at a pain clinic. “Dr. Matteson says people with disabling neuropathic pain from rheumatic diseases, like peripheral neuropathy associated with lupus or vasculitis [or fibromyalgia], also often benefit from integrative pain management services.” So just what happens at a pain clinic then?

What Do Pain Clinics Do?

While each clinic may vary in what they offer, the general idea is to create a strategy to treat your pain. Since the concept of pain management has interdisciplinary roots, you are likely to work with a number of healthcare professionals, including non-physician providers. For example, fibromyalgia consists of a wide variety of symptoms that sometimes overlap, but often need to be treated separately. To manage your chronic pain, it may require addressing other symptoms first. So, your providers at a pain clinic may range from psychiatrists and physical therapists to nutritionists and massage therapists.

Whatever the situation, your pain management doctors and caretakers will cater the treatment to your specific needs, circumstances, and preferences.

What to Look for in a Pain Management Doctor

The overarching philosophy of any pain clinic or pain management doctor should focus on quality of life. The pain from fibromyaliga, for example, is debilitating and reduces your overall functioning in life. While you as the patient will have to play an active role in your treatment, seek a clinic or pain management physician who is genuinely and reputably supportive and caring of their patients.

The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine emphasizes seeking out a physician who is board certified and who holds subspecialty board certifications in pain management with any of the following: American Board of Anesthesiology, The American Board of Psychiatry and The American Board of Neurology, or the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. They add, “These three are the only board certifications in pain management recognized by the American College of Graduate Medical Education.”

It is also important to make sure they have experience with your condition. So, if you are seeking treatment for chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, then ask them how they treat other patients in the same or similar situations. Granted, the treatment is specific to each individual, but they can review past examples with you. If they have not treated other patients with fibromyalgia, then you would do well to consider an alternative location or physician who has.

Have you sought treatment for your fibromyalgia symptoms from pain management doctors or clinics? If so, tell us about your experience.