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Like the cardiologist who performs interventional procedures such as cardiac catheterizations, pain management physicians perform interventional procedures to eliminate or reduce pain, and surgery as in other areas of medicine should always be the last resort.
When you initially go to your cardiologist because of a minor problem, I am sure that most of you would not ask “do I need surgery?” One usually wants to explore other options before surgical interventions are explored.
From experience, I have learned that patients do best with treatment by a pain management specialist when they come with the same open mind and attitude where they are willing to explore numerous options and not become focused primarily on getting narcotics or thinking that surgery is their only option.
I used the example of the cardiologist because I know that most of us would prefer that the cardiologist explore all options before referring us to a cardiac surgeon. This is the same approach that one should use when they have an orthopedic or spinal problem. Always ask about non-surgical options for your orthopedic or spinal pain.
The pain management physician, like the cardiologist, does not perform surgery. The cardiologist does interventional techniques, prescribes medications, and oversees your cardiac rehab program. Likewise, a pain management physician manages and directs your physical therapy or rehabilitation program, prescribes medications, and performs interventional procedures. Both the cardiologist and pain specialist will refer you to a surgeon when needed.
Timing is key to the success of your treatment. You should not delay an evaluation for heart disease, nor should you continue to ignore spinal or orthopedic pain, and wait too long before seeking an evaluation with a pain specialist. I have seen far too many patients wait too late in their treatment before seeking care with a pain specialist. Like other specialties, early intervention might lead to a better outcome.
Pain management is a process. It consists of many treatment options and more importantly, the treatment for your pain may not be the same as it is for your neighbor. Just like a pacemaker may be the treatment of choice for your spouse but not the treatment of choice for you when you see a cardiologist.