How Much Do Pain Management Specialists Make?

Pain management specialists can wear a variety of hats. They may use any combination of anesthetics, physiatry, physical therapy, and radiology to treat patients.

Pain management specialists may even enlist the help of psychologists or psychiatrists in their patients’ pain management plans.

Physicians who specialize in pain medicine may end up in a variety of healthcare settings, from the critical care unit of a hospital to an orthopedic medical center.

As you will learn in this article, pain management physician salaries can vary greatly.

Factors that affect a pain management specialist’s total cash compensation (salary plus incentives) include:

  • Experience
  • Location
  • Type of practice

We will discuss these factors in depth to give you a good idea of your current and future market value. This information will be valuable to you in your employment contract negotiations.

Once you’re pleased with your salary, there are some financial actions to take to make the most of your income.

These include paying down debt as quickly as possible, protecting your salary with disability insurance, planning for retirement, and using tax planning strategies to save as much as possible on taxes.


Average Pain Management Salary

The recorded average salary for pain anesthesiology varies depending on which sources you reference.

Comparably lists the average salary for interventional pain management at $450,000 annually.

According to Zippia, the average full-time pain management specialist earns $310,000 per year.

ZipRecruiter claims that the lower 25th percentile of pain management physician jobs pay $249,500 per year or lower, while the 90th percentile earns $400,000 per year or above.

Their listed national average base salary is $298,000 for this job title.

Salary.com lists the median income for pain management physicians at $353,390, with the top 90th percentile earning an annual salary of $564,686.

Each of the sources above gathers their data in different ways, but just by looking at the varying numbers, it’s safe to say that pain management specialists have a high earning potential.

The exact amount a pain medicine doctor can earn is dependent on several factors, which we will discuss in detail below.


Factors That Affect a Pain Management Specialist’s Salary

Syringes on a hospital table

The salaries of pain management specialists (including physicians, physician assistants, pain management nurses, nurse practitioners, etc.) reflect the individual’s experience, location, and the type of practice where they’re employed.

Years of Experience

According to Medscape’s 2020 Salary & Debt report, a resident in anesthetics earns $63,300, with this amount increasing a small amount each year during residency.

The more experience a pain medicine physician gains, the higher their earning potential.

Salary.com has a calculator that shows the potential for increased earnings based on experience in the field.

This calculator shows that after five years of practice, a pain management specialist should see their income increase by about $30,000 per year. After ten years, the calculator shows an increase of about $40,000.

This pattern of increased income with experience caps off after ten years with no significant salary increase after that.

Location

According to Zippia, the three top-paying states for pain specialists are Minnesota, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Usually, the highest-paying states are ones with a high cost of living, like New York or California. But, since these states aren’t typically considered high-cost living areas, the demand for pain medicine physicians must be extremely high.

Regarding cities where pain management specialists earn the most, Zippia lists these three as the leaders:

  1. Hastings, Nebraska
  2. Belleville, Illinois
  3. Freehold, New Jersey

Becker’s Spine Review, a magazine dedicated to publishing information in pain medicine and related subjects, lists the Midwest as the highest-earning region for pain management specialists.1 This area of the country is stated to earn up to $511,200 on average.

The lowest paying region is listed as the West. However, some cities in the West, like San Francisco, can still offer high salaries.

Type of Practice

As a general rule, private practice physicians earn as much as twenty percent more than those who aren’t self-employed. Medscape’s report backs up this data.

But, as we’ll see below, this rule doesn’t always apply in the pain management field.

Private Practice

According to Laura Dyrda of Becker’s Spine Review, pain management is one of the rare cases where going into private practice may not earn you the highest possible income. The publication says that hospital-based pain physicians can earn up to $64,000 more than those doing the same work in private practice.1

If you do choose to go into private practice, the best way to go, according to Dyrda, is with a multi-specialty outpatient clinic.

Dryda writes:

“Pain management anesthesiologists received more ($447,697) when they practiced in a multi-specialty than a single-specialty ($398,459). For non-anesthesia pain management specialists, those practicing in a single-specialty received slightly less than their anesthesiologist counterparts ($394,956), but more than non-anesthesia pain management specialists practicing in a multi-specialty group ($313,674).” 1

Hospital

In a hospital setting, patient care is highly needed for pain medicine. This significant demand transfers to an easier placement for pain management specialists with a very high potential income.

According to Becker’s Spine Review, pain management specialists working in the hospital environment can earn as much as $502,775 per year.1

Academic

Academic pain management specialists work in a college or university setting, training other physicians to earn their pain management degrees.

This position earns among the lowest on the spectrum due to the fact that they work fewer hours and don’t earn yearly bonuses based on performance.


Pain Management Specialists and Their Student Loan Debt

For pain management specialists, 8-9 years of college and medical school incurs a considerable amount of student loan debt.

This financial burden can easily overwhelm a physician, especially in the early years of practice.

However, there are plenty of repayment options that a physician can take advantage of to lessen the financial impact of their student loan payments.

The right repayment option depends on your immediate needs.

You can lower your monthly payments by selecting Income-Driven Repayment plans like Income-Based Repayment or Pay As You Earn.

If you would rather lower your total cost, you may want to stick with a traditional repayment plan. You may also take advantage of a program called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Paying back medical student loans is most definitely a top priority of all physicians looking to improve their financial futures and should be handled carefully.

To learn more about how you can best pay your medical student loans and more repayment strategies, read our article on medical school loan repayment.


How to Negotiate Your Pain Management Physician Employment Contract

The information above won’t serve you well if you neglect to negotiate your to reflect the salary that you deserve.

Many physicians feel intimidated by the negotiation process, and we are more than glad to help ease some of that anxiety.

We can do this in two ways:

First, we will provide a brief overview of what should be included in a physician contract.

Second, we can help you through the negotiation process by giving you a full contract review to ensure that you don’t get locked into a legally binding contract that isn’t in your best interest.

Whether you are beginning a new employment contract, making changes to your existing employment contract, or exiting a contract, it is wise to have the paperwork reviewed before you sign on the dotted line.

A complete employment contract should have certain components clearly stated within the language. This includes the employee’s compensation and benefits as well as their responsibilities and duties.

A contract should also list the beginning and end dates of said contract and any restrictive covenants and termination details should the employment contract be broken for any reason.

The insurance requirements are also explained in an employment contract as well as any partnership and ownership agreements.


Disability Insurance to Protect Your Salary

Pain management specialist inspecting patient's back

You undoubtedly rely on your pain management salary to pay your bills and care for your family.

But, what would you do if you lost that income? How would you survive?

A good disability insurance policy will protect you if you ever become unable to earn your income due to a physical or mental disability. We highly recommend that all physicians arm themselves with this financial protection.

However, you must choose a policy that won’t let you down when you need it most.

There are specific components every good disability insurance policy shares. For example, policies can differ in their definitions of “disability.”

The best contracts have a “true own-occupation” definition, which means that policy-holders are considered disabled (and therefore eligible to receive benefits) if they can no longer perform their occupation at the time of enrollment.

Physicians who can still work but lose their ability to earn the high salary they have worked so hard for should stay protected from financial ruin.

This is just one of the components of disability insurance that you need to be aware of. Our Full Guide to Disability Insurance can help you learn about the rest.


Building a Retirement From Your Annual Salary

One of the most important steps that a physician can take to ensure a healthy financial future is to begin planning for retirement as soon as they can.

To do this, a physician should look into the best possible option for their specific needs and circumstances.

Here are a few of the most popular retirement plans for both employed and self-employed physicians:

For the Employed

Employed pain medicine doctors can enroll in a 401k plan if they are affiliated with a for-profit company.

If the physician is employed by a non-profit company, they can still enroll in a 403b retirement plan.

For Private Practice

Private practice physicians can enroll in a 401k, but they have several other options.

These include profit-sharing, defined benefit, and money purchase plans.

Profit-sharing retirement plans place a portion of the yearly profits into the retirement fund of the owner or owners of the practice.

Money purchase plans deposit a set percentage of the employee’s salary into their retirement account, regardless of profits.

Defined benefit plans pay out a pre-determined benefit to each partner of a practice upon retirement.

For Both

Both employed and self-employed physicians can set up a traditional or Roth IRA account to plan for retirement.

Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t sure which will be best for you. Our team of specialists can help you traverse this rocky terrain and set you up for smooth sailing.

Read our Complete Guide to Physician Retirement Planning for more information, and don’t be afraid to reach out.


Effective Tax Planning

Taxes for high earners can cost thousands each year. However, with effective tax planning, you can lower that payment significantly.

Of course, as a busy physician, you may not have the time to stay abreast of the ever-changing tax codes. That’s why many enlist the help of a professional tax expert to prepare their taxes.

These professionals will delve into your unique circumstances and advise you on the best ways to lower your tax liability.

Read more here: Tax Planning for Physicians


Pain management is a very fulfilling career. Alleviating your patients chronic pain will leave you feeling just as good as them.

Pain medicine is an evolving field. The more we learn about the science of pain, the better our physicians can treat pain. For instance, pain management physicians can now get advanced training to diagnose and treat the various disorders related to chronic pain.

Nevertheless, an entire team of doctors is usually needed for these complex cases, so we’ll continue to see a high demand for doctors in this specialty.

Pain management specialists can use the data compiled in this article to position themselves for their best professional and financial success.

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1. Dyrda, L. (2011, September 6). Pain Management Physician Compensation: 5 Points on Who Makes the Most. Becker’s Spine Review. https://www.beckersspine.com/pain/item/9052-pain-management-physician-compensation-5-points-on-who-makes-the-most.html

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