a pain specialist examines a patient with a hurting spine

What is a Pain Management Specialist? Should I See One?

Last updated: October 2021

Pain management specialists are doctors who have special training in treating all kinds of pain. Pain can arise from a number of reasons, including injury, nerve damage, surgery, or chronic conditions like neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD). Pain can also be the initial problem, as some people experience pain without an obvious cause.1

The field of medicine continues to learn more about pain, how it develops, and how to best manage it. Pain management specialists have knowledge in the physiology of pain, various medicines to treat pain, and techniques and procedures to reduce the perception of pain. Plus, pain management specialists are trained in how to evaluate people with complicated conditions like NMO.1

What happens during the first visit with a pain management specialist?

During the first visit with a pain management specialist, the doctor is focused on evaluating your pain and understanding your healthcare concerns. The first visit usually includes a physical exam, a detailed health history, and a review of any previous tests performed.

It is helpful to bring with you any imaging studies, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The pain management specialist will analyze your situation and provide you with an initial assessment. In some cases, more diagnostic procedures are recommended.1

What type of approaches do pain management specialists use?

Pain management specialists use a combination of approaches to help people who have acute or chronic pain, including:1,2

  • Medicines
  • Procedures, like nerve blocks or spinal injections
  • Coordinating complementary and alternative approaches, like mindfulness practices, meditation, acupuncture, or physical therapy
  • When should you see a pain management specialist?

  • Chronic pain is generally considered any pain that lasts for more than 3 months. If a person is experiencing pain for a long period of time under the care of their current doctors, it may be time to consult with a pain management specialist.

Pain management specialists understand many options to manage chronic pain, like the pain from NMO. While you may need a referral to a pain management specialist from your primary doctor, a pain management specialist can suggest and coordinate a varied approach.

Have you seen a pain management specialist?

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