26 Jul Why a Pain Doctor Could Be Your Best Friend
Some 20 years ago, pain medicine was not the recognized specialty it is today. Patients suffering with chronic pain or debilitating acute pain would see their GPs or family doctors. As trained internists, those doctors did the best they could with the knowledge they had. Today though, we know a lot more about pain than we knew in the past. So much so that a good pain doctor could actually be your best friend – at least in the medical field.
Treating pain is challenging on multiple levels. Right from the start, pain generally is not a condition in and of itself. It is a signal that something is wrong. Still, we need to classify pain as specific and nonspecific. Specific pain is pain for which we can identify the cause. Nonspecific pain remains a mystery. We know a patient is suffering with it, but we don’t know what’s causing it.
Common Back Pain
Back pain is the most commonly reported pain doctors hear about. Prior to pain medicine becoming a specialty, it wasn’t unusual for back pain to be diagnosed as a symptom of one of two problems: degenerative disc disease and disc herniation. Neither diagnosis was necessarily a bad guess, but we know so much more about back pain these days.
Degenerative disk disease still does account for a lot of lower back pain. Herniated disks still occur. But there are other things capable of producing debilitating back pain:
- Facet joint syndrome
- Spinal stenosis
- Metastatic cancer.
The more we have learned about back pain, the better we have gotten at developing effective treatments. That is really what makes the difference between a pain specialist and an internist. An internist needs to know basic information about a lot of diseases, injuries, and maladies. But pain doctors can focus all their attention on pain causes and treatments.
Opioids Aren’t the Only Game in Town
Because pain doctors have more specialized knowledge in pain and its treatments, we are also more familiar with treatment options that do not involve opioids. Now, don’t misunderstand. Opioids are FDA-approved medications for treating pain. But they are not the only game in town. We would submit that there are plenty of other ways to treat pain without having to go the opioid route.
We wouldn’t expect an internist to be fully versed in such treatments. We would not even expect an internist to understand how the treatments work. That’s why pain medicine now exists as a medical specialty. Pain medicine exists because we now know so much more about pain and how to treat it.
Don’t Just Live with It
We say all of this to encourage you to not just live with your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, we understand that it affects nearly every aspect of your life. It probably puts a damper on your social activity. It probably leaves you feeling badly about yourself from time to time. Pain might even limit your daily functioning to the point that you don’t feel like you’re leading normal life.
We cannot promise you 100% pain relief in just one treatment. No doctor can. But we can promise to work with you to uncover the root causes of your pain and find the most appropriate treatment. We can promise to help you lead as normal and productive a life as possible. You deserve that much.
Count yourself lucky. A few decades ago, pain medicine wasn’t the specialty it is today. But now that pain medicine is available, your chances of finding relief are so much greater.