Pain resulting from injury or surgery is completely normal, but if you’re experiencing ongoing pain for months or years it’s time to seek help from a chronic pain management specialist.
“A chronic pain management specialist will work with you to get your pain under control and give you your function back,” said Mohab Ibrahim, MD, PhD, an anesthesiologist specializing in pain management at Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson. “That’s what we strive to do – give you your life back.”
If you’ve decided to seek help for your chronic pain, Dr. Ibrahim and his colleague, fellow pain management specialist, Amol Patwardhan, MD, PhD, shared the following advice on preparing for your first appointment.
Before your Chronic Pain Management Appointment
Both doctors recommend you bring the following with you to your appointment:
- All your medications – either bring the bottles or a list with current doses
- Names and contact information for all your other physicians
- The name and number of your pharmacy
- Your medical and surgical records and any imaging results
During your Appointment
When you’re with your pain management specialist, share as much information as possible – this will help your specialist make an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. And be sure to take notes – a lot of information will be given during a short amount of time.
Drs. Ibrahim and Patwardhan say don’t hesitate to ask questions. It’s even a good idea to make a list of questions in advance so you don’t forget anything. Questions may include:
- Are there any medications I should take or avoid?
- How can I keep myself free from further pain-related issues?
- How will my treatment plan be developed?
- What are reasonable goals for treatment?
Your pain management team will work with you to develop the best treatment plan for your pain, disease or condition. Options may include one or a combination of the following:
- Physical therapy – Typically the first approach to pain management, physical therapy can often resolve pain without further treatment.
- Medical therapy – If there is no benefit provided from physical therapy, medications may be prescribed. It’s important to note that research shows significant risks and side effects associated with long-term use of opioid pain medications for pain not related to cancer. Because of this, if your pain is not related to cancer, your pain management specialist will work with you to identify alternative options to opioid pain medications.
- Interventional procedures – Sometimes combined with medical therapy, interventional procedures can include epidurals, steroid injections, nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulators.
- Complementary therapies – These are therapies such as acupuncture, biofeedback and herbal medicine. These may not be provided at the hospital, but your pain specialist can provide recommendations on where to go.
- Psychological treatment – This includes medical and talk therapies to address mental health issues that can cause physical pain.
- Surgery – If your pain is not controlled through other available options, you may be a candidate for surgery.
For more helpful information about chronic pain, visit our Health Library.