Pain has practically become your middle name, and you’re desperate for someone to change it. But which pain management specialist, or pain doctor, can best do that? The maze of medical choices can be bewildering. Below, our experts outline your choices:
Your family physician – “This is typically the starting point and a good place to get advice,” says Mehul J. Desai, MD, director of Pain Medicine and Non-Operative Spine Services at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Anesthesiologist – Most people think of an anesthesiologist in the operating room, but more and more of these doctors are specializing in the management of chronic pain. Find a doctor who’s board certified through the American Board of Anesthesiology.
Rheumatologist – Your primary care doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in joint and muscle pain. “He or she may recommend injections or medications,” says Tanya Edwards, MD, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine, Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. Find a rheumatologist in your area through the American College of Rheumatology.
Surgeon – “Surgeons manage acute pain from things like recent surgery or injury,” says Allen D. Boyd, Jr., MD, associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and chief of Adult Reconstructive Surgery and Total Joint Replacement at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. And they are the ones to turn to if you are considering a joint replacement to ease pain.
Pain management program – Your family doctor may recommend that you work with a team of health care practitioners at a pain center, which could be within a hospital or a stand-alone center. The practitioners might include a neurosurgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, physiatrist (a physician who specializes in physical medicine, such as massage and manipulation, and rehabilitation), pain management specialists and rheumatologists. “Pain management programs are usually multi-specialty,” says Dr. Edwards. Find a pain clinic credentialed through the American Academy of Pain Management or check out the American Pain Society’s Clinical Centers of Excellence.