Your First Appointment with a Pain Medicine (or Pain Management) Specialist
What to Expect
Your first appointment with a pain medicine (or pain management) specialist is much like other doctor visits. Although there are many similarities, the focus is on your pain, the cause or contributing factors, and quickly managing it!
Pain medicine doctors perform a physical and neurological examination, and review your medical history paying particular attention to pain history. You may be asked many questions about your pain, including:
- On a scale from zero to 10, with 10 being the worse pain imaginable, rate your pain.
- When did pain start?
- What were you doing when pain started?
- Does pain spread into other areas of the body?
- Is its intensity constant, or is it worse at different times of the day or night?
- What helps to relieve the pain?
- What makes pain worse?
- What treatments have you tried? What worked? What failed?
- Do you take over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements?
- Do you take prescription medication? If so, what, how much, and how often?
Most pain medicine specialists use a standardized drawing of the front/back of the body to enable you to mark where pain is felt, as well as indicate pain spread and type. You may be asked to complete the form each time you visit the pain doctor. The completed drawing helps to evaluate your treatment progress.
The proper diagnosis may involve obtaining an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI study to confirm the cause of spine-related pain. When treating spine-related pain, other tests, such as discography, bone scans, nerve studies (electromyography, nerve conduction study), and myelography may be performed. The correct diagnosis is essential to a successful treatment plan.
Some spinal disorders and treatment considerations require involvement by other specialists. Other specialists who may become involved in pain care include your primary care physician, neurosurgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, and other specialists in radiology, psychiatry, psychology, oncology, nursing, physical therapy, complimentary alternative medicine, and other fields. In the case of spine-related pain, the pain medicine specialist may consult with and/or refer you to a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic spine surgeon to determine if your pain problem requires spine surgery.