When To Call a Doctor
Call a doctor about
chronic pain if:
- Your pain has lasted more than 3 months without
a clear reason.
- You are feeling down or blue or are not enjoying
the activities or hobbies that you have enjoyed in the past. You may
depression, which is common with chronic
- You can't sleep because of the pain.
had an illness or injury that healed, but you still have pain.
Watchful waiting is a period of time during
which you and your doctor watch your symptoms without using
During this period of watchful waiting, your doctor may have you try to get more sleep, work on reducing stress, and get more exercise. If you are able to control pain with exercise, massage, and pain relievers, you may not need further treatment.
But watchful waiting is not appropriate if your pain is severe or if it
interferes with your life. If you delay treatment, the pain may get
Who to see
If you have mild to moderate pain that keeps coming back and that
you can't manage at home on your own, you may need to see one of the following health
- Family doctor
- Internist, a doctor who specializes in the care of adults
- Nurse practitioner, a nurse who has advanced training
- Physician assistant, a health professional who practices medicine under a doctor's supervision
- Doctor of osteopathy, a doctor who uses manipulation or manual treatment, but also medicine, surgery, and other kinds of treatment
If your chronic pain is moderate to severe and is constant,
or if treatment does not control the pain, you may need to see a specialist, such as one or more of the
- Pain management specialist, a doctor who specializes in treating chronic pain
- Physiatrist, a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation
- Physical therapist, someone who evaluates physical problems and injuries and then provides education and treatment
- Neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system
- Anesthesiologist, a doctor who specializes in using pain-blocking techniques and medicines
psychologist, or licensed mental health counselor, all of whom specialize in treating mental health and behavior issues
- Orthopedic surgeon, a doctor who specializes in bone, muscle, and joint surgery
- Rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating autoimmune diseases and problems in the joints
- Chiropractor, someone who specializes in treating problems that affect the alignment of muscles and bones
Often more than one specialist will treat your chronic
pain. For example, a primary physician may manage your medicines, and a
physical therapist may help you restore function through exercise or other
treatments. A professional counselor may help you with coping and depression. Someone else may help you with acupuncture or
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
January 9, 2013
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