ICD-10 Pain Management Coding 2024: What Physicians Need to Know

Accurate coding for pain management is important for many reasons, including a smooth billing process, faster reimbursements, and enhanced patient care. Despite its importance, coding for pain management can be complex. The major reason is that pain is categorized in many ways: 

  • Type: Some common types of pain are chronic, acute, nociceptive, neuropathic, and radicular. Nociceptive pain is further divided into visceral and somatic types. Pain can also be a mix of different types.
  • Duration: Acute pain can last from minutes to six months, while chronic pain lasts more than six months.
  • Location: Pain is also classified according to region, such as headache, low back pain, or limb pain. 

The other reason for complex coding is the ever-changing guidelines by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). So, physicians find it difficult to take care of patients and streamline their billing process side by side. 

Well, fret not. This article is your cheat sheet about the latest 2024 ICD-10 pain management coding system. 

The Importance of Specific Pain Management Coding

Codes describing pain are reported and sequenced according to the encounter notes and the reason for the admission/encounter. It may be necessary to assign more than one code to fully describe the type or cause of the documented pain.

Codes for chronic and acute pain at the same location are different. Let us walkthrough an example for your better understanding:

Pain LocationAcute PainChronic Pain

So, selecting the most specific ICD-10 code is crucial for accurate documentation and billing. The coding team must be familiar with the nuances of pain management CPT codes, coding guidelines, and medical terminologies.  

2024 Pain Management Billing and Coding Updates

In 2024, we will have one new CPT code in the Musculoskeletal system for a new arthrodesis procedure. This code is 27278: Arthrodesis, sacroiliac joint, percutaneous, image-guided, involving intra-articular implant placement (e.g., bone allograft[s], synthetic device[s]), but excluding transfixion device placement.

1. Category G89 (Pain, not elsewhere classified)

G89 codes are used to categorize acute or chronic pain caused by trauma, post-thoracotomy, postprocedural, neoplasms, chronic pain syndrome ICD 10, or central pain syndrome. Furthermore, these codes apply to chronic pain from other causes. 

It is critical to understand that if the physician does not explicitly identify the pain as one of these types, codes from category G89 should not be used. Codes from category G89 should only be used for pain that fits into one of the following categories.

  • acute 
  • chronic 
  • postprocedural 
  • post-thoracotomy (incision into the thoracic cavity (thoracic pain ICD 10 – Code M54.6) or chest cavity 
  • neoplasm-related pain

According to a 2021 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 5 adults, or over 50 million people, are estimated to experience chronic pain.

Common Primary Chronic Pain Diagnosis Codes

G89.4Chronic pain syndrome
G89.21Chronic pain due to trauma
G89.28Other chronic postprocedural pain
G89.29Other chronic pain

2. Using Secondary Diagnoses (the cause is known)

When the cause of pain is known, secondary codes should be used to provide a comprehensive diagnosis.

Common Secondary Chronic Pain Diagnosis Codes

G90.511Complex regional pain syndrome I of the right upper limb
G90.512Complex regional pain syndrome I of the left upper limb
G90.513Complex regional pain syndrome I of the upper limb, bilateral
G90.521Complex regional pain syndrome I of the right lower limb
G90.522Complex regional pain syndrome I of the left lower limb
G90.523Complex regional pain syndrome I of the lower limb, bilateral
G90.529Complex regional pain syndrome I of unspecified lower limb
G90.59Complex regional pain syndrome I of other specified site
G89.0Central pain syndrome
G96.12Meningeal adhesions, spinal, and cerebral
G54.0Brachial plexus disorders
G54.1Lumbosacral plexus disorders
G54.6Phantom Limb Syndrome; with pain
G54.8Other nerve root and plexus disorders
G54.4Lumbosacral root disorders, not elsewhere classified
G56.40Causalgia of the upper limb, unspecified
G56.41Causalgia of the right upper limb
G56.42Causalgia of left upper limb
G56.80Other specified mononeuropathies of unspecified upper limb
G56.90Unspecified mononeuropathies of unspecified upper limb
G56.91Unspecified mononeuropathies of the right upper limb
G56.92Unspecified mononeuropathies of left upper limb
I70.229Atherosclerosis of native arteries of extremities with rest pain, unspecified extremity
M54.12Radiculopathy, cervical region
M54.13Radiculopathy, cervicothoracic region
M54.14Radiculopathy, thoracic region
M54.15Radiculopathy, thoracolumbar region
M54.16Radiculopathy, lumbar region
M54.17Radiculopathy, lumbosacral region

3. Coding Considerations for Specific Scenarios

Certain scenarios necessitate specific coding considerations:  

  • Medical Devices or Implants: 

ICD-10-CM Chapter 19 contains codes that indicate pain caused by medical devices. These devices had been implanted or grafted into the patient’s body. Medical devices, which are not a natural part of the human body, may malfunction, fall apart, break, or simply continue to cause inflammation and pain over time. Codes falling into this category are called T-codes. Here are a few examples. 

T82.84Pain caused by cardiac and vascular prosthetic devices, implants, and grafts
T83.84Pain caused by genitourinary prosthetic devices, implants, and grafts
T84.84XAPain caused by internal orthopedic prosthetic devices, implants, and grafts during an initial encounter
  • Physical vs. Psychological Pain: 

It is essential to distinguish between physical pain (e.g., neuropathic pain G89.0) and pain disorders with psychological factors (e.g., somatic symptom disorder F45.1) for accurate coding. In the next section, we will discuss psychological pain coding in detail, as it usually leads to coding errors and claims denials. 

Common Coding Categories Leading to Claim Denials

Accurate ICD-10 pain management billing and coding is crucial for clean claim submissions. However, the complex coding nature of certain categories can lead to claim denials. Here’s a detailed description of these categories: 

1. Psychological Factors Associated with Pain

Coders using Category G89 codes also consider coding for related psychological factors associated with pain (F45.42), if applicable. For instance, if the healthcare provider mentions “pain-related anxiety” or “depression due to chronic pain” as complicating pain management, code F45.42 should be assigned alongside the appropriate Category G89 pain code. This ensures a more comprehensive picture of the patient’s condition. 

However, the order in which these codes are listed depends on the main reason for the patient’s visit. If pain management is the primary focus, the G89 code comes first. But if the visit is for a mental health issue like depression, code that condition first, then F45.42. This ensures the coding reflects the visit’s primary focus in the medical record.

2. Chronic Pain Syndrome (G89.4) vs Central Pain Syndrome (G89.0)

Chronic pain syndrome differs significantly from central pain syndrome. As such, a careful medical record review should be performed before assigning either of these codes. These conditions are defined as follows:

  • Chronic pain syndrome (CPS): Chronic pain syndrome ICD 10 is associated with psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression, suicidal thoughts,  poor sleep, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. Behavioral health experts and pain management physicians collaborate to provide treatment. Typically, only a small percentage of chronic pain patients may go on to develop CPS.
  • Central pain syndrome: Some injuries or damage to the brain, brainstem, or spinal cord can cause a nerve problem. This problem leads to pain in the face, arms, and legs. The pain can come and go, or it can be constant. People with this condition are also extra sensitive to any kind of pain.

3.ICD-10-CM Combination Codes

The ICD-10-CM coding system offers many combination codes that simplify reporting by condensing frequently paired diagnoses into a single code. These codes are updated yearly, so regular checks ensure accurate coding. Previously, a patient with chronic low back pain due to a bulging disc (intervertebral disc displacement) needing pain medication refills might require two separate codes.  Here’s how: 

G89.29Other chronic pain
M54.5ICD 10 code back pain, unspecified (This is now M54.50 as of 2024 update)
M51.27 Other intervertebral disc displacement, lumbosacral region 

This combination code reduces the number of codes reported to: 

G89.29Other chronic pain
M51.26Lumbago due to intervertebral disc displacement of the lumbar spine 

The Bottom Line

We hope this article was helpful to you. As you can see, accurate coding for pain demands a strong grasp of pain types and corresponding codes. A careful review of medical records is essential to pinpointing the specific pain type, the encounter’s purpose, and any psychological factors linked to the patient’s pain.


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