Understanding Pain

People in pain often try several remedies looking for relief, beginning with over-the-counter pain medications, ice packs and heating pads. When pain persists, people usually go to primary care physicians, who may use diagnostic tools (such as an X-ray) to determine if there has been an injury. If specific causes for pain are not found, physicians may refer patients to a specialist for treatment, or they may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Patients might also be referred for physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or pain counseling. Pain treatments often proceed in this manner until a remedy is found; however, the array of treatment options can be overwhelming, and patients with persistent pain may become discouraged and even depressed during this process.

At any point in the treatment process, primary care physicians might refer patients to pain management specialists or to interventional pain physicians (a relatively new and growing specialty). In addition to a medical degree, these physicians have at least one year of medical training in pain management and are qualified to develop comprehensive pain management programs that employ a full range of chronic pain therapies.

Physicians generally follow a treatment regimen when dealing with pain patients. Elliot Krames, M.D., a leading interventional pain physician, was one of the first to recognize that pain should be treated in a progressive order, similar to other diseases. The order in which Dr. Parris’s treatments are administered, varies according to patients’ conditions and responses to previous therapies; more than one treatment can be given at a time