What is pain medicine?

The specialty of pain medicine is concerned with the study of pain, prevention of pain, and the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in pain.

Some conditions may have pain and associated symptoms arising from a discrete cause, such as postoperative pain or pain associated with a malignancy, or may be conditions in which pain constitutes the primary problem, such as neuropathic pains or headaches. The evaluation of painful syndromes includes interpretation of historical data; review of previous laboratory, imaging, and electrodiagnostic studies; assessment of behavioral, social, occupational and avocational issues; and interview and examination of the patient by the pain specialist.

Pain may require specialized diagnostic procedures, including central and peripheral neural blockade or monitored drug infusions. The special needs of the pediatric and geriatric populations and patients' cultural contexts are considered when formulating a comprehensive treatment plan.

Pain physicians and their team members may serve as consultants to other healthcare providers and are often the principal treating provider themselves. They may provide care at various levels, such as direct treatment, prescribing medication, prescribing rehabilitation services, performing pain relieving procedures, counseling patients and families, directing a multidisciplinary team, coordinating care with other health care providers and providing consultative services to public and private agencies pursuant to optimal health care delivery to the patient suffering from pain. Pain clinicians may work in a variety of settings and are competent to treat the entire range of pain encountered in the delivery of quality health care.

See AAPM's patient resources for more information on pain medicine or visit the career center for jobs in the field.

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