Q: What is Chronic Pain Management?
A: Anyone who has on-going pain that has not been eased with the help of a primary care physician should be evaluated by a Pain Management Specialist. The goal of chronic pain management is to improve your function and reduce suffering. We strive to give you as much pain relief as possible with the least amount of risk.
Our team of professionals are specifically trained to treat various chronic pain problems and are experts in all aspects of your health which may be affected by your chronic pain. Our physicians have completed a fellowship program and most are Board Certified in both Anesthesiology and Pain Management- having completed four years of medical school, four years of training in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and an additional year of training to become experts in treating chronic pain. If interventional procedures are considered, real expertise is critical since the spine and nerves that register pain are delicate and everyone’s anatomy may be different. In addition, many of the medications used to treat pain are strong or may interact with other medications and can be harmful if not administered by a physician with appropriate training.
Your Pain Management Specialist will us a medical history and physical examination, as well as radiological studies, such as an MRI, CT, bone scan, and x-rays as recommended to evaluate your needs. Our physicians and their staff will work in collaboration with you to develop a plan of care to ease the pain and improve your quality of life. This plan is very individualized and may consist of medications, treatments, procedures, physical therapy and in most cases, a combination of these options.
Q: What is the difference between acute pain and chronic pain?
A: Acute pain is pain of a short, limited duration, usually the result of an injury, surgery or medical illness. Acute pain often goes away with the healing process. Chronic pain continues for longer periods of time, sometimes even a long time after the healing of the original injury is expected to have occurred. Chronic pain can be associated with frustration, depression and anxiety. Chronic pain may produce feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness and even despair – this is common and you are not alone. In addition, it can alter one’s personality, disrupt sleep, interfere with work and relationships and even have a profound effect on other family members. Treatments for acute and chronic pain are quite different.
Q: Can a person’s pain be all “in their head”?
A: Pain that is “all in the head” is not very common. Some people do turn the emotional symptoms of anxiety or depression into the physical symptom of pain. It is more common; however, for people with physical pain to have more intense pain because of their anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression lower people’s pain tolerance. Although it’s not all in their head, emotional disturbances definitely worsen the pain problem. This is why it is important for people with chronic pain to also see a psychiatrist to have those emotional issues treated at the same time as their physical pain issues.
Q: Can you help me or my loved one?
A: This is one of the most common questions we receive and, we hope that the answer is YES. Ideally, everyone wants to be pain free, but realistically, not everyone can be completely relieved of pain. Every patient is different and will have different results.
The treatment of pain requires a dedication to the patient that surpasses that in many medical fields and pain problems can be very complex. Patients often do not get better with one treatment or with the help of a single medication. Our staff is committed to sticking with you until we’ve exhausted all efforts to make you feel better. We believe a balanced approach is the only way to treat pain and will do our best to help you.
Q: How can I avoid chronic pain problems?
A: The best way to avoid chronic pain is to treat acute pain aggressively and appropriately. For example, when a person first experiences severe pain, anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen help promote healing and prevent abnormal pain impulses from developing. Prolonged, severe pain can cause anxiety, depression and insomnia which in turn decreases a person’s pain tolerance. Pain causes depression which causes more pain. This cycle of pain can be very difficult to break once it starts. This is why it is important to work in collaboration with a trained pain management professional.
Q: Do I have to suffer with chronic pain for the rest of my life?
A: Not necessarily. With proper treatment, people can live full, normal lives after having experienced chronic pain.
Your length of management under our care depends on your diagnosis and the plan that your doctor recommends. Some patients need only one visit for treatment suggestions that their primary care physician can carry out. Other patients may need to see their pain management specialist on a regular basis for quite some time depending on the severity of their pain.
Q: What are my options?
A: We’ll discuss all the options available to you and come up with a custom plan of care. Options include:
Medication Management: From over-the-counter remedies, such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), to powerful prescription drugs such as opioids, medications may help ease the pain. Other medications can help too, including antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and steroids. Your physician may suggest a combination of medications that can address different aspects of your pain.
Physical therapy: As directed by a physical therapist, specific exercises can help you build up muscle and ease pain. Commonwealth Pain & Spine can refer you to the best-in-class therapists in your area.
Procedures and Treatments: A number of procedures can help with pain control, from nerve blocks to surgery to snip overactive nerves.
Lifestyle changes: You can help your pain management efforts by being as healthy as possible. For example, if you smoke, get help so you can stop. Try to maintain a healthy weight to avoid the stress excess weight puts on your joints, resulting in hip and knee pain. Good nutrition is important even if you’re trim, and exercising can often relieve or prevent pain.