Millions of people in the U.S. live with chronic pain. Some of them rely on their GPs to help them manage the pain. Others have been referred to pain management specialists. What’s the difference? More importantly, how does one know it is time to see a specialist, otherwise known as a pain medicine doctor?

The differences between the two types of doctors is specialty. A GP is generally an internist with a very broad knowledge of biology, physiology, and immunology. A pain medicine doctor has that same general knowledge along with additional training in pain management.

The doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX are all pain management physicians. They offer the following signs suggesting that it’s time to see a pain specialist:

1. Your GP Can’t Help You

GPs work hard to help patients improve their lives and overall health. When it comes to pain relief, their lack of specialized knowledge limits the extent to which they can help. That might be where you find yourself now. Your GP has done his or her best, but it seems like there is nothing more they can do to help you.

Don’t feel bad about asking for a referral to a pain medicine doctor. Your GP is not trained in pain medicine any more than they are trained in cardiology. If you were having heart problems, you would expect a referral to a cardiologist. Likewise, ask for a referral to a pain medicine specialist.

2. You Want Options Beyond Medication

One of the hallmarks of modern pain medicine is the willingness to avoid medications when possible. Pain medicine practitioners are open to other therapies. They know that sometimes a nerve block or spinal cord stimulation is more preferable to prescription drugs. If you are cautious and looking for options beyond meds, a pain medicine specialist could be your best bet.

3. You Are Leery of Surgery

Along those same lines, many patients referred to pain medicine physicians ask for referrals because all their GPs can recommend is surgery. There are times when surgery is appropriate. But there are also times when it is not. The thing about surgery as a means of relieving pain is that it can actually lead to more pain down the road.

You may be a good candidate for pain medicine if the only option you have been given for managing chronic pain is surgery. A pain medicine specialist can at least give you a second opinion – if not less invasive options.

4. You’ve Been Diagnosed with an Unusual Condition

It might be time to see a pain medicine doctor if you have been diagnosed with an unusual condition. A good example is cervicogenic headaches as a result of kyphosis. Although kyphosis is not unusual in and of itself, the condition causing headaches is. Your GP may have no clue about how to handle such headaches.

A trained pain medicine physician should know all the ins and outs of both kyphosis and cervicogenic headaches. Their advanced knowledge should mean a range of treatment options your GP wouldn’t even think of.

Again, none of this is intended as a knock against GPs. Both GPs and family doctors provide valuable services that all of us would be lost without. But other specialties exist because GPs and family doctors cannot do it all. Pain management is one of those specialties.

If you have been living with chronic pain and have struggled to find relief through traditional therapies, it might be time to ask for a pain medicine referral. Highly specialized pain medicine probably has the answers you need.