Choosing the right pain doctor can be a challenging and tedious process. You should consider more than where they went to medical school. It’s also about choosing someone with specialized training for chronic pain or acute pain. And it’s about more than providing health care. You also want someone who can take a multidisciplinary approach to your needs and your long term pain management. In this guide, we’ll explore 5 essential traits of a good pain doctor.
Trait #1: Good listening skills
Primary care physicians and pain physicians who listen to chronic pain patients are important when it comes to providing individualized treatment. Undoubtedly, you want to work with a doctor who wants to:
- validate your concerns as a patient
- learn more about your specific concerns
- pick up on clues to help them diagnose your pain
- devise an ideal pain treatment plan that addresses your pain in a variety of ways
- remain willing to try new and advanced treatments, including new pain medications
Look for a doctor who lets you speak without interrupting you and who maintains good eye contact. She should also pose relevant questions about changes in your types of pain as well as your quality of life.
Trait #2: Empathetic to your situation
You might think it’s better for your pain doctor to be efficient rather than empathetic, but having both is conducive to your overall care. Don’t dismiss the importance of a friendly bedside manner.
But that combination can be difficult to find. A survey of 800 hospitalized patients revealed that only 53% found their physicians to be empathic. In another study, researchers reviewing videotaped doctor-patient conversations and found that doctors often overlooked or dismissed their patients’ concerns. Those doctors gave empathic responses only 22% of the time.
If you’re already struggling with pain, simply being around an empathetic pain management specialist could help reduce your symptoms. Look for one who will:
- spend valuable extra moments with you so that you feel welcome and understood as a patient
- show support for your interest in new pain relief options, including physical therapy, alternative treatments or other chronic pain management options
- asks for your honest feedback on your doctor-patient relationship
- be willing to walk a mile in your shoes and treat pain in ways that are outside of the box
Learn more about the power of empathy from your doctor by clicking below:
Trait #3: Experience with pain management
A doctor with experience in pain management, especially your specific medical condition, will likely better understand your journey that a doctor who is unfamiliar with chronic pain.
Some pain conditions are still misunderstood – even in the medical world. However, having a doctor who has experience with patients that struggle with your specific ailment is crucial to the success of your long term pain management. Use online tools to search for specialists in your area and read patients’ reviews of their experiences.
Learn more about pain doctors here:
Trait #4: Interest in medical advancements
Technology is transforming the pain management landscape, bringing new developments to treat patients more efficiently and effectively. In the last few years, we’ve seen options such as spinal cord stimulators to low-level laser therapy technology reducing the symptoms of chronic pain. These options are essential to the ongoing fight against pain, especially considering the growing concerns surrounding opioid painkillers.
To ensure you don’t miss out on the latest pain management breakthroughs, look for a doctor who shows an interest in such medical advancements. A health care professional like this will keep her ear to the ground and suggest new trials and treatments to help you better manage your condition.
Trait #5: Available to you
When chronic pain flares, you want to know you can see your pain specialist right away. Living with chronic pain often means you can’t afford to wait weeks for medical care or a higher dose of your pain medication.
Don’t be afraid to ask potential doctors what their availability is like. Learning how long it typically takes to get an appointment can help you decide whether a specific doctor is the right pain management partner for you.
What other traits are important to you when choosing a good pain doctor?
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This post was updated in April 2019 with new information and resources.