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J Pain. 2007 Mar;8(3):244-50. Epub 2006 Dec 13.

U.S. board-certified pain physician practices: uniformity and census data of their locations.

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  • 1Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY 10003, USA. bbreuer@chpnet.org


We determined the profiles of the board-certified pain physician workforce and the profiles of those residing near medical pain practices. Data from a mail survey of U.S. pain specialists were compared with U.S. Census data, and different settings and types of practices were contrasted. The 750 respondents (32.1%) were similar to the entire board-certified group in age, geographic distribution, and primary specialty. Although pain practices were underrepresented in rural areas, their prevalence was unrelated to other demographic data. Ninety-six percent of pain physicians treated chronic pain; 84% followed patients longitudinally; 31% worked in an academic environment; 50% had an interdisciplinary practice; and 29% focused on a single modality. Academics were more likely to be neurologists (P < .05) and to have had a pain fellowship (P < or = .0001). Modality-oriented practitioners were more likely to be anesthesiologists (P < or = .0001) and were less likely to follow patients with chronic pain longitudinally (P < or = .0001), provide training to fellows, prescribe controlled substances (P < or = .0001, respectively), or require an opioid contract (P < or = .01). Although boarded specialists learn from similar curricula and must pass a certifying examination, their practices vary considerably. Data are needed to further clarify the nature of workforce variation, its impact on patient care, and the role of other pain management clinicians.


A survey of board-certified pain specialists reveals considerable variation in practice and a total number of specialists that is probably insufficient to meet the needs of the population with chronic pain. The location of pain management practices largely corresponds to census data, with the exception of underrepresentation in rural areas.

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