It’s sometimes hard to determine when and whether you should see a specialist for chronic pain, because it typically starts subtly and builds over time. But there’s no reason to wait until pain takes over your life before seeking specialty care.
John S. Michels, M.D. is a pain management specialist with a busy practice in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. He offers a variety of highly effective, minimally invasive therapies for acute and chronic pain relief that are designed to improve your mobility and restore your quality of life.
Here’s what this award-winning physician has to say about why and when you should see a specialist for chronic pain.
Conditions that cause chronic pain
Acute pain is the type that occurs suddenly, resolves within a few weeks to a couple of months at most, and is typically the result of injury, surgery, or other temporary condition.
Chronic pain is long-term discomfort that may be consistent or fade periodically and then return. It can also worsen as the underlying condition causing the discomfort advances.
Conditions that are known to cause chronic pain include:
- Degenerative changes in the joints, including those in the spine
- Herniated spinal discs
- Osteoarthritis linked to aging and overuse during work or sports activities
- Painful nerve conditions such as peripheral neuropathy
- Spinal nerve impingement such as sciatica related to spinal stenosis
- Failed back surgery
- Neurological disorders
- Migraine and other chronic headache disorders
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), often related to a previous injury or surgery
- Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis
According to the most recent estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in five adults in the United States lives with chronic pain.
When to seek specialty care for chronic pain
Technically speaking, pain that may require specialty care is any that lasts longer than three months or that tends to recur over time.
But Dr. Michels suggests that you also consider other factors when contemplating a visit with a pain management specialist.
He generally recommends you schedule an evaluation when the discomfort you’re experiencing:
- Lasts longer than expected
- Causes you to cancel social, work, or sports activities
- Interferes with your ability to sleep
- Is not responsive to over-the-counter medications
- Restricts your mobility
- Causes problems with concentration or motivation
- Occurs with specific movements or activities
- Radiates (travels) from one location to another, such as down your leg from your back
The intensity of your pain should not be your only motivation for treatment. Even low-level chronic pain can have a significant impact on your daily life.
Benefits of seeing a specialist for chronic pain
A pain management physician first completes medical school and then spends several additional years in education and training to develop a high level of understanding and expertise in treating acute and chronic pain.
For each of his patients, Dr. Michels develops a comprehensive treatment strategy that may include:
- Diagnostic testing to identify the underlying cause of your pain
- Physical therapy/rehab to relieve discomfort, improve strength and flexibility, restore mobility
- Injection-based therapies with steroids to reduce inflammation and pain
- Peripheral nerve blocks
- Minimally invasive procedures such as kyphoplasty for compression fractures
- Occipital nerve and medial branch nerve blocks for chronic headaches
- Radiofrequency ablation (rhizotomy) for chronic neck, back, and/or knee pain.
- Intercostal nerve blocks for shingles pain
- Spinal cord stimulation to block pain signals to the brain
This is only a partial list of the many effective treatments Dr. Michels offers for chronic pain issues.
For relief from your pain without surgery, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Michels today.