What is a pain management doctor? What are the signs that you should make an appointment to see one?
If you have sore joints or chronic pain, you’re not alone. At least 20% of adults in the US experience chronic pain on a daily basis.
From degenerative conditions like arthritis to old sports injuries that just never heal, pain can disrupt your daily activities.
You don’t have to suffer in silence, however, as there is plenty of help for chronic pain patients available. Pain doctors are here to help!
But what is a pain management doctor, and what can they do to improve your quality of life?
What Is a Pain Management Doctor?
A pain management doctor isn’t a physician who’ll diagnose why you’re experiencing pain. Instead, their job is to help you manage the pain you’re suffering, whether it’s a temporary or lifelong condition.
Pain management physicians have a broad understanding of the impact of pain on your daily life. They recognize that it’s not just the physical pain that causes a problem. Pain impacts sleep, mood, your ability to work and feel self-worth, and your relationships.
They’ll help you to find ways to manage your pain but will also know how to spot related problems that may need additional help, too. For example, many pain patients become depressed. Some family doctors put this down to feeling pain, but pain specialists understand it can actually worsen your experience of chronic pain.
In this example, a pain specialist would help you to access treatment to improve your mood. This, in turn, can reduce your experience of pain as your mood improves.
What Conditions Does a Pain Management Doctor Treat?
Pain specialists treat a wide range of pain conditions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re recovering from a surgery, healing from a sports injury, or have a musculoskeletal disorder causing your pain. Every form of pain is valid to these specialists.
A pain consultant understands that pain is a different experience for every individual. Their specialist knowledge in pain management is what sets them apart from your rheumatologist, physiotherapist, or surgeon, whose job is to treat your condition rather than your pain.
Some pain doctors specialize in certain conditions to deliver a truly expert service. You may come across pain specialists for arthritis, back injuries, addiction-related pain, or cancer pain.
If your chronic pain is disrupting your daily activities and enjoyment of life, it’s time to make an appointment with a pain specialist.
Tips to Reduce Chronic Pain While You Wait to See a Pain Consultant
There is a huge demand for pain consultants, so it’s likely you’ll have to wait a while before you get to see one.
There are ways you can reduce your pain while you wait for your appointment date to roll around. Try these tips to start managing your chronic pain at home.
Get Plenty of Rest
People want to push through the pain they experience for a number of reasons. Maybe they don’t want to look weak, don’t want to miss out on activities, or simply don’t have time to put their feet up.
If this sounds like you, stop! Burning out by pushing through your pain to carry out regular activities isn’t going to help you heal.
Learn to say no to some social events, or adapt them if you have to instead. Invite people over for a pot luck dinner instead of traveling across town to a restaurant, for example.
Find ways to save energy and get more rest to ensure your body is getting the time it needs to heal.
Use Heat and Ice
When pain strikes, reach for the heat and ice.
You’ll have to experiment with both heat and ice packs to see which one helps your pain the most. Never use heat on a swollen or inflamed area, though.
Heat packs help to encourage blood flow to the sore area, relieving tension and relaxing muscles to reduce pain. Ice, on the other hand, brings a numbing sensation that acts as a pain blocker.
Pain management clinics often run group meditation sessions or guided meditation materials to help with your pain.
While pain is a physical thing, it is also directly impacted by your mental well-being. Feeling stressed because of your pain makes you focus on it, and this amplifies the amount of pain your brain perceives.
Meditation, however, helps you to focus away from the pain. You’ll learn to acknowledge your pain without focusing on it all the time.
Keep Exercising (Gently)
We automatically tense up when we’re in pain, but doing that over a long period of time causes painful knots in the muscle fibers. This contributes to your pain to make it even worse.
When you’re feeling stiff and sore in your joints, or have a tender injury that needs to heal, it’s easy to make excuses to avoid exercise. You don’t need to hit the gym or go on a day-long hike, but gentle exercise can help to reduce your pain.
A walk around the block or some adapted yoga poses are all it takes to maintain muscle strength, improve flexibility, and boost your circulation. Take time every day to work some gentle exercise into your routine to stay loose, flexible, and avoid tension in your muscles.
Try over-the-counter painkillers, to begin with. These will help to reduce inflammation and minimize the pain you feel.
If over-the-counter painkillers aren’t working for you anymore, speak to your physician. They may prescribe stronger painkillers to help with your pain until you can see a pain specialist.
Your pain specialist will try to find options to manage your pain that complements painkillers so you won’t build up an unhealthy reliance on them.
Consider Alternative Therapies for Pain Management
You’re reading this article because you’ve asked yourself, “What is a pain management doctor?” but have you ever wondered: “What is an acupuncturist?”. It could be a question worth investigating if you want to explore new ways to manage your pain.
From acupuncture to CBD oil, there is increasing evidence that alternative therapies can be a great way to complement a typical pain management program.
If you want to explore other avenues for managing your chronic pain, take a look at this helpful guide to alternative pain therapies.