Finding pain management doctors near you can be an exhausting task. From recommendations from friends to reviews online, there are so many options for finding one. But, once you’ve found a few you like, how can you narrow down the results to find the one that best suits you? More important, how can you find a doctor that can help you relieve your chronic pain? (And, as we’ll discuss later, how can you make sure you’re the best advocate for your pain as well?)
What do pain management doctors do?
As TreatingPain.com explains, the pain management doctor specialty was:
“[B]orn out of the need for treating all types of pain, including musculoskeletal, spinal and neuropathic pain disorders. With an accurate diagnosis and early intervention, we hope to help patients avoid spiraling into a state of chronic pain, or at least reduce the severity of pain, and improve patients’ quality of life. Minimally invasive procedures and proper use of medications are implemented to achieve those goals.”
Finding the right primary care doctor can already seem like a chore. Finding one that also specializes in chronic pain management? That can be even more difficult. And what should you look for when you do find options? According to the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine:
“The most important consideration in looking for a pain management specialist is to find someone who has the training and experience to help you with your particular pain problem and with whom you feel a comfortable rapport. Since many types of chronic pain may require a complex treatment plan as well as specialized interventional techniques, pain specialists today must have more training than in the past, and you should learn about how your pain physician was trained and whether he or she has board certification in pain management.”
Why should I visit a pain management clinic?
Pain management clinics offer patients more options than a primary care doctor when it comes to comprehensive and interventional pain management. As WebMD explains:
“Although pain clinics differ in their focus and offerings, most involve a team of health care providers that can help you with a variety of strategies to manage your pain. These health care providers are likely to include doctors of different specialties as well as non-physician providers specializing in the diagnosis and management of chronic pain. These providers may include psychologists, physical therapists, and complementary and alternative therapists such as acupuncturists or massage therapists. Together, they will put together a pain management plan for you.”
The National Arthritis Foundation also explains that pain management clinics can connect you with a variety of services in the community, including:
- Biofeedback specialists
- Physical therapists
- Massage therapists
- Vocational rehabilitation experts
Everyday Health also lists some of the healthcare professionals you’ll find at a pain clinic. Spine-Health.com also discusses the types of conditions best served at pain clinics. Once you’ve decided that a pain management clinic is right for you, there are a few steps you can take to get started on finding the best pain management doctors near you.
1. Talk to your insurance
Your insurance company may have different requirements for finding a doctor in your network. They may require a recommendation from your primary care doctor. Or, they could have a list of out of network and in network providers where you can start your search. Starting here — on the phone with an insurance consultant — is often your best bet for reducing a headache at the end of your search.
2. Ask your primary care doctor
Your primary care doctor likely already knows some of the symptoms and problems you’re experiencing. Talk to them to get more information about what could be causing your pain. If they think it’s appropriate, ask them to recommend pain management doctors you could try in your area. They can also steer you towards great pain management doctors or pain management clinics they’ve worked with in the past.
3. Talk to friends and family
Another important step may be talking to friends and family. Personal opinions are invaluable when finding the best pain management doctors near you. While online reviews or insurance company recommendations may be skewed, your friends or family have your best interests at heart. They can also be more telling when it comes to things like office environment and service, the pain management clinic cleanliness, and how quickly appointments can be scheduled.
4. Use a search tool online
Once you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to do your own research. You can find a great list of potential pain management doctors from the following sources:
The majority of these sites will list data from patients like you. This information may include:
- Reviews from current and former patients
- Disciplinary actions taken against them
- Professional memberships or affiliations
- Contact information for their pain management clinic
5. Contact the pain management doctor or clinic
Once you’ve found a pain management clinic you like, you can ask questions to make sure they’re the right fit for you. The Arthritis Foundation also offers some sample questions you can ask, such as:
- What treatments do you offer?
- How are your pain management doctors trained?
- How do you treat my condition?
Deciding on a pain management doctor is a big decision. You want a clinic that is prompt with answering questions and giving information or patient referrals when requested. If your call goes well, consider scheduling an appointment with a doctor to learn more about what they do and how they can help you.
However, once you’ve found a pain management doctor that works for you, you’re also responsible for being your own patient advocate. How can you be the best advocate for yourself? Let’s take a look at five ways you can adopt a hands-on approach to your pain management.
6. Be the CEO of your health
Pain management can feel like a full-time job. Tracking medicines and doctors’ appointments, researching new therapies to replace those that aren’t working, and all the other tasks associated with having a chronic medical condition can easily consume most of your time.
You never asked for this job, and you probably wish you could quit. However, mastering the art of pain management is the best way to live your fullest life while feeling as good as possible. This title doesn’t necessarily come with a corner office, but it’s helpful to think of yourself as CEO of your health. You’re the boss when it comes to the medicines you take, the food you eat, and the lifestyle you live.
No matter how amazing your pain management doctor is, he or she unfortunately can’t follow you home and make sure you stick to the advice. This is where you not only have to be a good boss, but also a good employee. The boss version of you will likely set lofty pain management goals like eating healthy, exercising, and researching new potential treatments. Then when it comes time for your employee self to follow out the orders, some resistance might ensue.
That’s when the CEO comes in—that’s you—to remind yourself why this is important.
7. Stay informed
It’s up to you to understand your condition and arrive at your pain management doctor appointments with questions in mind. Yes, doctors are the medical professionals and can help you feel better, but you know your own body the best, and you have the most at stake. Developing basic medical knowledge will also help you better understand your doctor.
Nothing can replace an informed patient, and the more informed you are, the more likely you are to enjoy positive outcomes.
There’s a lot of medical information out there, and unfortunately it can be difficult to understand. The best way to stay informed about your specific condition is to find an authoritative publication or website and read up, while continuing to check back every so often to track new developments.
Resources include this blog, as well as websites like Arthritis Today and Pain Pathways. If you like science, consider checking Science Daily’s health and medicine news page. The website posts the latest research from universities around the world, and it’s written in a press release format, making it relatively easy to understand. Other reputable sources include WebMD, Harvard Health, and Mayo Clinic.
8. Come to appointments prepared
Make the most out of visits to your pain management doctor by preparing beforehand.
First, it helps to make a list of concerns you may have. This way, when you have the doctor’s ear, you’ll remember to ask about that sharp pain that’s new and seems to be unusual, for example, or any other concerns you may have. If something worries you, ask about it. It’s better to ask when you’re in the doctor’s office rather than start worrying once your return home.
Second, have a list of any questions that have arisen since your last appointment. Feel free to ask for your pain doctor’s opinion on new research that affects your condition. You might gain good insight on an emerging treatment therapy or learn about things you should or shouldn’t do that will impact pain levels.
If during conversations with your doctor, you don’t understand something, be sure to ask for clarification until the point becomes clear. Remember, you’re the CEO and need good information to move forward.
Third, consider asking a relative or caregiver to join you for the appointment. It can be helpful to have a second ear because it’s hard to remember everything doctors say during appointments. You might also consider taking notes to help when memory fails. It may be helpful to keep the notes, questions, and research of interest in one place that’s easily accessible at home.
9. Practice good doctor communication
Doctors can’t feel inside your body, so it’s important to be honest when they ask how much something hurts. If you brush something off, saying it doesn’t worry you when in reality it does, your doctor won’t be able to tell the true depths of your concern and could also brush it off.
Alternatively, it’s important to be your own pain management advocate. If a pain management doctor tells you to wait on something that you feel is serious, pursue additional testing, even seeking a second opinion if necessary.
Honesty about lifestyle choices is also critical, including the types of food you eat and divulging whether you smoke or drink. It’s important to have a doctor you feel comfortable talking with.
Spilling the contents of your pantry isn’t about feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Doctors need to have all the information available so they can make the best decisions about your treatment. Omitted information can have serious health impacts. Some types of medications, for example, may be contraindicated for smokers. No matter what the truth, your doctor can handle it and your health will experience the benefit of honesty.
Another thing to mention at doctor’s appointments is if you are having problems with accessing care. Are you having trouble affording medications or experiencing another barrier making life more difficult? Your doctor or the staff may be able to point you in the direction of an advocacy group or other resource to help.
10. Find helpful pain management tools
While it can be difficult to remember the timing of medications, or to push yourself to exercise, help is available.
Try downloading an app that reminds you to take medications, for example. MedCoach is one option for iPhone users. Special features include the ability to connect with your pharmacy to request refills. MediSafe is available for Android users and offers many of the same features.
For help improving your diet or adopting an exercise regimen, check out MyFitnessPal. The app allows you to track meals and activity levels.
Pulling it all together
Pain management comes down to finding the best pain management doctors for you, AND being the best patient advocate you can be for yourself. Both of these combined can help you reduce your pain levels and achieve a better quality of life. It’s not easy, but the first step starts now. Follow the steps above to find pain management doctors near you, or click the button below to look through the list of PainDoctor.com certified pain specialists.