What is Pain Medicine?Pain medicine is a specialty closely related to, but separate from, anesthesiology. Whereas anesthesiologists typically work to relieve a patient's pain during surgery or another medical procedure, pain medicine specialists work to relieve their patients' pain as they are out living their lives. Pain medicine specialists treat patients who have acute or chronic pain. The pain may be a symptom of their problem (e.g. they are hurting because they were in a car accident), or the pain may be the problem itself (e.g. they are having migraine headaches). The pain specialist's goal is to prevent pain from interfering with a patient's quality of life. Pain medicine specialists must have a thorough understanding of the physiology of pain, how it is caused, and what effects it has on the body. A good pain medicine specialist is able to evaluate patients who are hurting and who may not always be able to communicate their problems very well. To gain more information about their patients' condition, pain medicine physicians can interpret specialized imaging tests. Using this information, pain medicine specialists must be able to prescribe a balanced treatment plan. There are several treatments that pain medicine specialists may use to alleviate pain for their patients. They can prescribe medication, perform certain procedures, and refer patients to rehabilitation services. Often they will recommend multiple treatment methods to be used simultaneously. Some of these pain treatments include:
- Implantable devices (intrathecal pump, spinal cord stimulator)
- Injections (corticosteroids)
- Medications (Percocet, Vicodin)
- Nerve blocks (anesthetic injected into a nerve)
- Physical therapy
- Alternative medicine therapies, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, and hypnosis
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