Physiatrists specialize in the non-operative treatment of all musculoskeletal conditions. The goal of treatment is to increase function and performance while managing pain.
The use of medications, both narcotic and non-narcotic is only one tool utilized by Physiatrists. In fact, most patients that require medications do so in addition to other rehabilitative treatments such as physical therapy, massage, exercise and specialized injections. Based on a thorough medical evaluation, a treatment plan will be prescribed that may include a combination of non-narcotic medications, short-term narcotic use, or not include medications at all. Conversely, some patients go on to require long-term medication use, both narcotic and non-narcotic, in order to properly function and manage pain.
There may come a point when a primary medical provider may request the guidance and expertise of a pain management specialist, such a Physiatrist, to assist with or take over care of patients with chronic or complex pain. In order to assist with or take over the care of a referred patient, a Physiatrist will complete a comprehensive initial history and physical examination. Routine follow-up visits to reassess the patient’s pain and ensure appropriate medication management will be required. Often, proper medication requires adjustments as a patient advances in their treatment plan.
Since all medications have side effects, the goal of effective pain management is to optimize function and reduce pain while taking into account the effect the medications will have on patients activities of daily living. The goal of managing pain is not to completely eliminate pain, but to find an appropriate balance between pain management and optimal function for the patient.