Choosing and Meeting with a Pain Management Specialist

There are many different approaches to pain management. It is not unusual for a person to see several pain management specialists or try a range of treatments before finding the right fit.


Prospective patients are encouraged to ask questions when selecting a pain management specialist. The following are important criteria for consideration.

  • Primary specialty. Pain medicine is considered a subspecialty, so it is important to know a doctor’s primary specialty, as it can influence the type of treatments offered. For example, a family or emergency medicine physician likely to recommend a non-invasive treatment, while physiatrist or anesthesiologist may add interventional approach to pain care.
  • Pain medicine/pain management fellowship. A fellowship provides additional specialized training to doctors who have already completed a residency program. A typical pain medicine fellowship will involve experience in diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic pain from a variety of perspectives, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of the field.
  • See Acute vs. Chronic Pain

  • Professional affiliation. Doctors may have letters following their names, such as “FAAPM”, which stands for “Fellow, American Academy of Pain Medicine.” These affiliations indicate a physician’s professional interest and experience as well as involvement with respective Academy affairs.

Information about a doctor’s professional training and affiliations are likely available online and can be confirmed by several sources, including the American Board of Medical Specialties and the Accredited Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The First Pain Management Appointment

To make a pain management appointment as productive as possible, arrive prepared and with an open mind. Below are things one can do to make a pain management appointment successful.

  • Be ready to explain symptoms. This could include the onset of pain, where the pain is located, what the pain feels like, and if it comes and goes or is constant.
  • Have a list of any medications, including over-the-counter supplements. Include the dosages and how they are taken. It may be easiest to bring in the original bottle and prescription.
  • Understand that many questions will be asked. To make the most effective and appropriate treatment plan, a pain management specialist will likely require a detailed medical history, including past surgeries.
  • If possible, bring radiological imaging of the affected area, such as X-Rays, MRI images and electrodiagnostic studies.

In some cases, a pain management specialist may ask a person to submit to a urine drug screening. This is to determine what drugs are present in the system before prescribing any additional medications. Opioid use contract may be also required to be signed to confirm prospective patient’s understanding and adherence to the rules and regulations with regard to use of these medications for pain.

See The Pain Contract: A Doctor-Patient Pain Treatment Agreement

Every appointment will be different depending upon the doctor and any specific state requirements.