When you hear the terms “pain medicine” or “pain management,” you might think of prescriptions and medicines.
Pain management is a comprehensive medical specialty that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain. Your pain management team will work alongside you, developing a treatment plan that helps you live your best life.
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What Is Pain Management?
According to Ajay Wasan, MD, MSc, Vice Chair, Pain Medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at UPMC, Pain Management is a board-certified medical specialty. Doctors who practice it have completed a fellowship after residency and are certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties as experts in pain management.
Expect your first visit with a pain specialist to involve an extensive evaluation of all possible causes of your pain. The doctor may recommend a variety of treatments to reduce your pain and improve your functioning, which can include:
- Nerve block. A nerve block is a medicine injected into your body to numb a group of nerves and, as a result, reduce pain.
- Oral medicine. This can be divided into opioids and non-opioids. Opioid medicines, also known as narcotics, are typically used as a last resort. A doctor may first prescribe non-opioid medicines to help control pain.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy and exercises to strengthen targeted areas of your body can help to relieve pain. UPMC’s chronic pain management program offers physical therapy and occupational therapy clinics so that you’ll receive the proper therapies to treat your chronic pain.
- Mental health care. UPMC Pain Management also includes pain psychologists and psychiatrists who can help you learn to cope with your pain and improve how you function with it.
What Do Specialists Treat?
Pain management specialists can treat the full spectrum of pain disorders, but they most often treat chronic pain due to low back pain or arthritis pain, for example. Chronic pain is pain occurring daily and lasting at least three months. ’
At UPMC, pain specialists treat conditions that include:
- Back and neck pain.
- Cancer pain.
- Abdominal pain.
- Post-surgical pain.
- Pain due to nerve injuries.
- Arthritis pain.
When Should You See a Specialist?
The majority of people who see pain specialists are referred by another doctor.
A pain management specialist can identify the cause of your pain and treat its symptoms. A doctor may also consult with other specialists to determine if you are a good candidate for surgery or another procedure to correct an underlying condition or if pain management is a better option.
Dr. Wasan says that getting early pain treatment improves your chances of finding relief.
What Kind of Results Can You Expect?
For chronic pain, treatment is not a quick fix.
“It’s a process that may involve several different types of treatment,” says Dr. Wasan. “Over a six-month period, the majority of our patients experience a 30 to 50 percent improvement, based on our tracking of treatment outcomes.”
“People suffering from chronic conditions may always have some pain, but pain management and specialty care can help them significantly reduce it and manage their pain to prevent it from getting worse.”
Learn more about UPMC Pain Management and start getting the treatment you need.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.