Living with Chronic Pain
What Are the Requirements to be Considered a Pain Specialist in the United States?
In order to become a specialist in a specific medical field, such as oncology or pediatrics, a physician needs to complete a specialized residency training program. Once residency is completed, most physicians choose to take the national board exam in their chosen specialty to become a board-certified practitioner in that specialty.
Currently, there is not a residency training program for pain management in the United States. However, it is still possible for a physician to become a board-certified pain specialist, but the path is slightly different. First, a residency training program in a different specialty, such as anesthesiology or physical medicine and rehabilitation, needs to be completed. Then, a one-year subspecialty training, known as a fellowship, in pain medicine is required. Finally, the physician must pass a board exam in pain management.
While becoming board-certified is one way to become a pain specialist, it is not always necessary. In the United States, each state has their own guidelines regarding who can practice in a pain management clinic. Some states require board certification of all physicians practicing in a pain management clinic. Other states only require that the physician owner of the clinic is board certified. Other states do not require board certification at all, simply requiring a certain number of credits of pain-related continuing education each year, and some states do not have any policies regarding pain management clinics and specialists.
Finding a qualified pain specialist
When looking for a pain specialist, check to see if the physician is board certified in pain management from the American Board of Anesthesiology, the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, or the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. If a state does not require board certification, find out how long the physician has been practicing in the field of pain management and whether they have published research related to pain management. This can help identify a credible, qualified pain specialist.