Sixty years ago, most people saw a family physician for all their medical care. Hospital visits were for emergencies and serious conditions only. There were dramatically fewer specialties back then, simply because the state of American medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is today. For example, pain medicine wasn’t a specialty of note in the 1960s.
Pain medicine is a prominent specialty today. Clinics like Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX concentrate almost exclusively on treating and managing pain. So how did we get from where we were sixty years ago to where we are today? Why has pain medicine become such an important medical specialty?
1. Our Understanding Has Improved
The place to start is our actual understanding of pain. Humanity has always known that pain is a signal of something wrong in the body. It is a warning signal. But over the last few decades, technology and research have combined to give us a better understanding of pain and its mechanisms. With greater understanding comes greater medical complexity.
Taking advantage of all this new knowledge ultimately means more education and training. Wherever you go down that road, you end up introducing another specialty. Pain medicine has essentially grown out of the sheer volume of knowledge we have accumulated within the last 30 years.
2. Primary Care Shortage
Pain medicine becoming a prominent specialty happened at just the right time. Prior to its prominence, family doctors and primary care physicians help patients manage pain as best they could. These days, this is not possible thanks to a primary care shortage. There are not enough doctors to provide primary care as it is. Expecting them to handle pain management is not practical.
Primary care and family physicians have neither the time nor the resources to help chronic pain patients to the degree they deserve to be helped. By referring those patients to pain management specialists, doctors ensure that their patients will be well taken care of.
3. Treatments Are Specialized
A clear indicator of whether a particular type of medicine has become a specialty lies in available treatments. Medical specialties involve specialized treatments. We can clearly see this in pain medicine. Treatments like spinal cord stimulation implants and celiac plexus blocks are not available in primary care offices.
Such treatments require additional knowledge and training above and beyond the internal medicine training primary care physicians receive. That is a good thing. The last thing patients need is an untrained family practitioner attempting a nerve block procedure.
4. Patients Demand It
One last factor to consider is the patient factor. At the end of the day, medicine is as much a business as it is a means of helping people feel better. Moreover, the most successful businesses figure out what their customers want and give it to them.
Pain medicine has become an important medical specialty because patients demand it. As our knowledge and technology have improved, patients have become less willing to just take an aspirin and call the doctor in the morning. They want better treatment for managing pain so that they can live their best lives. Pain medicine gives them that. At least that is the goal.
Medicine evolves right alongside everything else. As it does, it creates new medical specialties offering new treatments for age-old problems. Pain medicine fits the bill. As we have learned more about pain and its mechanisms, developed new technologies, and found better treatments for chronic issues, pain medicine has become one of the most important specialties in Western medicine.