Pain Specialists

There is no one discipline within healthcare that specializes in chronic pain management. No one, for instance, can get an M.D. or a Ph.D. in pain management. Instead, many different types of healthcare providers can specialize in delivering chronic pain management services. In other words, there are different types of pain management specialists.

Healthcare providers come to specialize in pain management by seeking out additional training and experiences after attaining their degrees. Typically, what leads them to seek out such additional training is the particular interests and experiences of the given provider.

Among psychologists, pain psychologists or health psychologists tend to typically specialize in chronic pain management. Historically, psychologists have been leaders in developing and running chronic pain rehabilitation programs.

Among physicians, there are a number of types of physicians that specialize in chronic pain management. Spine surgeons are typically either neurosurgeons or orthopedic surgeons who specialize in spinal surgeries. Interventional pain physicians tend to be either anesthesiologists or physiatrists who have sought out additional training in providing interventional procedures, such as epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, and the like. However, physiatrists, depending on the particular interests of the provider, can go without obtaining additional training in interventional procedures and instead become specialists in chronic pain rehabilitation. Neurologists, or physicians who are specialists in nerve-related conditions, can also come to concentrate their focus on chronic pain management. Psychiatrists can also sometimes specialize in treating chronic pain disorders.

Physical therapist are an altogether different type of healthcare provider who can come to specialize in chronic pain management. Physical therapists focus on movement and exercise as a way to reduce pain and increase functional abilities.

From their differing traditions and disciplines, all these pain management specialists aim to help pain reduce pain and live well even if pain persists.

Date of publication: April 27, 2012

Date of last modification: December 24, 2022

About the author: Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to clinics and health systems on improving pain care. He is the founder and editor of the Institute for Chronic Pain. The Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP) provides academic quality information that is approachable to all. The goal of the ICP is to change the culture of how pain is managed, making it more effective and compassionate. 

Murray J. McAllister, PsyD, is a pain psychologist and consults to health systems on improving pain. He is the editor and founder of the Institute for Chronic Pain (ICP). The ICP is an educational and public policy think tank. In its mission is to lead the field in making pain management more empirically supported, the ICP provides academic quality information on chronic pain that is approachable to patients and their families. 

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