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Specialty Description

What is a pain physician?

A physician who specializes in pain medicine diagnoses and treats patients experiencing problems with acute, chronic and/or cancer pain in both hospital and outpatient settings, and coordinates patient care needs with other specialists.

The specialty of pain medicine is concerned with the study of pain, prevention of pain, and the evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of persons in pain. Some conditions may have pain and associated symptoms arising from a discrete cause, such as postoperative pain or pain associated with a malignancy, or may be conditions in which pain constitutes the primary problem, such as neuropathic pains or headaches.

The evaluation of painful syndromes includes interpretation of historical data; review of previous laboratory, imaging and electrodiagnostic studies; assessment of behavioral, social, occupational and avocational issues; and interview and examination of the patient by the pain specialist. It may require specialized diagnostic procedures, including central and peripheral neural blockade or monitored drug infusions. The special needs of the pediatric and geriatric populations, and patients’ cultural contexts, are considered when formulating a comprehensive treatment plan.

What does a pain physician do?

The pain physician serves as a consultant to other physicians but is often the principal treating physician and may provide care at various levels, such as direct treatment, prescribing medication, prescribing rehabilitation services, performing pain relieving procedures, counseling patients and families, directing a multidisciplinary team, coordinating care with other health care providers, and providing consultative services to public and private agencies pursuant to optimal health care delivery to the patient suffering from pain. The pain physician may work in a variety of settings and is competent to treat the entire range of pain encountered in the delivery of quality health care.