Physiatrists and Anesthesiologists are the two primary type of physicians that treat chronic pain conditions. They both go to medical school, however the training they receive for their specialties is quite different, and as a result, the way that they treat chronic pain can also differ.
Physiatrists specialize in rehabilitation and how the body moves, and are often classified as “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” doctors. They look at the big picture by focusing on the entire body, and are experts in treating injuries that affect the way your body moves in relation to your nerves, muscles and bones. Physiatrists focus on treating the underlying cause of pain, as a way of restoring your function and mobility. They often work as part of team that might include physical therapists and counselors, and believe non-surgical treatments such as pain medication, injections, and exercise programs should always be tried first, and that surgery should be an option of last resort after other treatments have failed.
Most people think of anesthesiologists as doctors who spend all of their time in the operating room administering anesthesia during surgery. Many anesthesiologists also practice pain management, and as their name implies, they tend focus more on surgeries and injections as a way of treating pain. Some of the common surgeries performed by anesthesiologists for pain management include spinal cord stimulators, which are devices that are implanted inside your body, that deliver electrical impulses to your body in an attempt to intercept and change the nerve signals that cause pain. Anesthesiologists also rely heavily on injections, which can include Cervical Epidural Injections, Joint Injections, and Lumbar Epidural Injections.