Like many areas of medicine, treating chronic pain—that which lasts longer than a few weeks despite conservative treatment measures—requires specialized training and expertise, especially if the pain originates from issues in the spine.
As the use of interventional therapies such as epidural injections and lumbar decompression techniques grew in the last half of the 20th century, an effort was taken to formally recognize this sub-specialty of medicine and support on-going education, training and certification of physicians who pursue this field.
The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to improving the delivery of interventional pain management services to patients across the country.[i] These services include:
- Cervical steroid injections
- Dorsal root ganglion stimulation
- Facet joint injections
- Lumbar decompression
- Nerve blocks
- Sacroiliac joint fusion
- Spinal cord stimulation
How is Interventional Pain Different from Pain Management?
As the name implies, interventional pain management seeks to do more than simply treat pain after it occurs; it tries to identify the source of the pain and intervene to address it and prevent it if possible.
Interventional pain management specialists are trained to accurately evaluate and diagnose the source of the pain so that they can recommend the best and most appropriate way to treat it.
The majority of physicians who use interventional approaches are trained in the field of anesthesiology. They are fellowship-trained and use imaging (x-ray or ultrasound) to guide their treatments. They adhere to ASIPP guidelines so that the field can continue to refine protocols and standards for interventional procedures and support peer-to-peer knowledge that will result in improved outcomes.
What Should Patients Consider in Choosing an Interventional Pain Specialist?
Dedicated interventional pain management physicians generally:[ii]
- Complete an accredited fellowship (at least one year of additional training beyond residency after graduating from medical school) in Anesthesiology and/or Pain Medicine
- Earn subspecialty board certification in pain management by the American Board of Anesthesiology, The American Board of Psychiatry and The American Board of Neurology, or the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
- Continue to support on-going education through research, participation in clinical trials and published articles.
- Work closely with referring physicians and other specialists to ensure comprehensive patient care. This includes primary care physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists and others.
As the field of interventional pain medicine continues to grow and more and more advanced therapies are introduced, it is critical that patients do their homework. Pain management is a complex field that requires specialized knowledge for effective treatment. The best outcomes are achieved by practitioners who possess the training and expertise to understand the intricacies of pain and how to intervene to treat it successfully.