What does a pain medicine physician do in an IME?

About one in five people will experience persistent pain at some point in their lives. Management of chronic pain requires a multidisciplinary approach. We examine what an IME can offer.

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What does a pain medicine physician do in an IME?

Who is a pain medicine physician?

Pain medicine physicians are members of Faculty of Pain Medicine, within the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. These specialists must first practise in another area of medicine – such as general practice, psychiatry or rehabilitation medicine - before undergoing additional training. Pain medicine is a complex area of work and much like occupational rehabilitation, requires a multidisciplinary response for effective outcomes. So, what can a pain specialist offer in the IME setting?

Diagnosing chronic pain conditions

An employer may be told of ‘back pain’ impacting work, or an insurer may see a certificate with ‘chronic regional pain syndrome (?)', while the person with the pain just wants to get back to Normal Life. Unlike the picture used for this article, chronic pain tends to be hidden in plain sight.

Establishing a diagnosis is part of the role of a pain specialist. Given there are over 200 chronic pain conditions (as described in the International Association for the Study of Pain's Classification of Chronic Pain Second Edition - Revised), diagnosis is an expert role.

Identifying barriers and recommending appropriate therapies

Research has long established the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to managing chronic pain, but how do you know you have the right approach for an individual? Do they need a nerve block? How much physio and psychology is enough? Is medicinal cannabis the answer? Where does work fit in the picture? The science is rapidly changing, so ensuring an evidence based approach is critical.

How can you explain the specialty of pain medicine to an individual you are referring?

When making a referral, setting the person at ease is important. While it is not specific to what happens in a pain specialist’s IME, this video from the Faculty of Pain Medicine, gives an insight into the work of this specialty.

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