How to Choose a Good Pain Doctor

pain doctorChoosing a good doctor is always a challenge. There are many options to consider, including:

  • Insurance Requirements
  • Where you Live
  • The Degree of Specialization of the Physician you’re looking for

The best pain doctors will be those who have a broad range of experience, and a broad range of ability to evaluate and treat a variety of problems.

The Definition of Pain

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as: “An unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”  Pain is how the body interprets certain sensory signals in the nervous system, which includes how the brain processes the signals and determines how to react to them.  Pain sounds simple, but becomes extremely complex due to many causes and interactions.

Qualities of a Great Pain Doctor

A good pain doctor needs to have many qualities in order to successfully manage what can be an extremely complex problem.  Pain often comes from multiple sensory sources, and finding each sensory source is a challenge.  The start to finding the source is listening to the patient, the story, and where and what is happening.  The story is often critical, and a good doctor will be able to recognize what story matches various internal problems.  An experienced doctor can match a story very quickly to the pain problem.

In addition to listening to the patient’s story, a doctor may also need to perform other tests in order to grasp the full scope of your pain, such as:

  • Analysis of a patient’s movements
  • Checking motion in various body parts
  • Examining the neurologic and musculoskeletal system
  • Scans and X-rays

The best doctors have done this many times, and can put complex information together rapidly to determine a treatment plan.

Finally, all the good pain doctors should at least be fully licensed, and have subspecialty boards in Pain Medicine.  Backgrounds in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are also a huge plus.  Expect a good physician to be familiar with your history and examination, and have a comprehensive treatment plan, and be willing to address a number of complex issues contributing to your unique problem.

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Thomas Cohn, MD

Interventional pain doctor helping Minnesotans manage back, neck, foot, and other pain. Board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation with additional board-certification in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP) and the American Board of Pain Medicine (ABPM).

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