Pain Medicine, as the name implies, is the field of medicine that deals with the prevention, evaluation, and alleviation of pain. A Pain Medicine Specialist is a medical doctor (from the subspecialty of Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Neurology or Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation) acquiring additional qualifications enabling advanced care management for patients experiencing problems with severe pain in both hospital and outpatient settings. Conditions that may be encountered include, degenerative joint diseases, trauma, cancer, and others. Patient care is typically coordinated with other specialists.
Pain medicine plays a role in conditions where pain is severe and/or prolonged. Examples of these are:
- Post-operative pain—pain doctors, mostly anesthesiologists, manage an operative patient’s pain during and after the surgery. Immediately after the surgery, when the effect of the anesthetic has worn down, patients experience severe breakthrough pain, especially for those who underwent major surgical procedures. The goal of pain doctors is to prevent the occurrence of this breakthrough pain.
- Cancer pain—cancer can be a slow and painful disease. Depending on the organ affected, cancer can cause severe and long-standing pain to the patient. For example, bone cancer or bone metastasis can cause severe bone pains. Cancer of any intraabdominal organ can cause abdominal pain. Brain cancer can give the most painful headaches. These kinds of pain are long-lasting and can progressively get worse as the cancer progresses.
- Joint pain—arthritis is a very common source of pain, especially for the elderly. Pain specialists help in alleviating this pain to permit the use of the joint and maximize its functionality.
- Neurogenic pain—pain due to neural problems can be quite tricky to manage. Examples of this pain are back pain or leg pain due to an impinged nerve and phantom pain from an amputated body part. This type of pain is usually not relieved by the typical analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Pain specialists manage this type of pain using other types of medications (usually anti-epileptic drugs) and rehabilitative procedures.