Have chronic pain? What you need to know about your pain management options.
When you have chronic pain that gets in the way of everyday activities, you may benefit from pain management treatment. Not all pain management clinics offer the same options that can improve your quality of life and offer long-lasting pain relief. Here’s what you need to know about your pain management options.
You don’t have to live with chronic #BackPain, #SpinePain, or #NeckPain. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, pain management expert Dr. Houston shares what you need to know when seeking treatment: https://bit.ly/3izUh1J.
What is pain management?
When people think of pain management, they often think of anesthesia services offered during surgery or other inpatient procedures. Pain management experts are also highly skilled at using a variety of techniques and technology to relieve chronic pain in outpatient settings.
There are many effective and safe ways to minimize your pain, restore function, and improve your quality of life while limiting the use of opioid medications. Typically, this combines advanced pain management treatments aimed at addressing the root of your pain with other forms of care. For example:
- Acupuncture or chiropractic services
- Behavioral health services
- Medication management
- Occupational or physical therapy
Who could benefit from pain management services?
Acute pain that emerges suddenly after an injury, such as a broken bone, should be treated by a primary care or urgent care provider. Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t resolve on its own past a normal period of healing. Typically, this means pain lasting over 90 days.
If you have persistent pain that’s interfering with your ability to live the life you want, you may benefit from seeing a pain management specialist. Just as other types of injuries and illnesses require the attention of a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or shoulder surgeon, our pain management specialists primarily treat chronic pain using the latest techniques and tools to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.
A customized pain management plan may be right for you if you have chronic pain related to:
- Back pain
- Cancer pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)
- Joint pain
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Neck pain
- Spine pain
… and more.
The most effective pain relief starts with an accurate diagnosis.
Medication may relieve your pain temporarily. But for pain relief that lasts, you need an expert to find the root of your pain. At MedStar Health, we believe an accurate diagnosis is the best way to ensure effective treatment that relieves your pain. We’re able to correctly identify the source of your pain and design customized treatment plans to manage your pain by collecting comprehensive information about your condition through a combination of the following:
- A review of your medical history
- A physical exam
- Analysis of blood or lab work
- Examination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, or x-rays
- Performing diagnostic nerve blocks
A diagnostic nerve block is a procedure that uses a needle to inject a local anesthetic into a nerve to block the pain signals to the brain. If it’s successful, we know the source of the pain. A diagnostic nerve block may be used for joint pain. For example, knee pain, or in the spine for back and neck pain. Similarly, a sympathetic nerve block targets a group of nerves, helping to diagnose CRPS or RSD.
Long-lasting chronic pain relief requires advanced therapies that extend beyond medication.
Once we identify the source of your pain, our first approach typically involves interventions to manage your pain while limiting the need for opioids. Together, we’ll develop a treatment plan that uses a variety of techniques to meet your individual needs and goals.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests that long-term chronic opioid therapy is ineffective in most situations due to well-established side effects. This includes immunosuppression, endocrine abnormalities, constipation, sedation, and worsening pain from opioid-induced hyperalgesia. While we will prescribe opioids in certain situations when clinically necessary—and in combination with other treatment modalities—we extensively evaluate our patients, keep dosages low, and seek other ways to control pain.
Pain management treatment options at MedStar Health.
Advanced pain management techniques offer a variety of benefits with fewer risks than most medications. Your doctor will take into consideration your unique condition and goals before designing a pain management treatment plan that will work best for you. Your treatment will vary based on the source and location of your pain but may include:
Radiofrequency nerve ablations.
This uses a needle to deliver controlled and precise heat to reduce or stop affected nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Radiofrequency nerve ablations may be used for pain in the knee, hip, sacroiliac joint, and shoulder, as well as the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Nearly two-thirds to 90 percent of patients report pain relief following the procedure.
Steroid injections and epidural steroid injections.
During this method, a pain management specialist injects local anesthetics near nerves near inflamed tissue or the spine to reduce pain and inflammation caused by herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, and more. Many patients experience pain relief within three to seven days after the procedure.
- Peripheral nerve stimulation, which uses temporary or permanent nerve implants to block pain signals, thereby reducing lower back pain, shoulder pain, post-amputation pain, chronic pain, and more.
- Spinal cord stimulation, which provides pain relief by electrically stimulating the spinal cord to block pain signals. You may or may not even feel the stimulation, and you are given a remote control for the implanted device.
Intrathecal pump implants.
Also called pain pumps, these are used to inject medications directly into the spinal fluid via a catheter. This is typically effective in relieving pain for patients living with cancer.
Trigger point injections.
This involves injecting medication directly into myofascial trigger points, or sensitive fibers within a muscle. These injections offer immediate pain relief for patients experiencing chronic muscle pain and other issues affecting the musculoskeletal system.
Ketamine and lidocaine infusions.
These are anesthetics delivered intravenously that can treat pain caused by nerve injury or chronic pain. Ketamine is most commonly known as an effective way to treat depression, and the FDA-approved infusion formulation offers those mood-boosting benefits to patients receiving the infusion for pain. MedStar Health offers one of the only pain management programs under which ketamine and lidocaine infusions are covered by insurance.
We’re one of the only comprehensive pain management clinics in the area.
Some pain management clinics focus on interventional services that provide pain relief but don’t necessarily address the root of your pain. Others emphasize medication, managing your use of opioids or other controlled substances, which are unfortunately proven to be ineffective and risky over time.
At MedStar Health, we offer comprehensive and integrated pain management options using a holistic approach to relieving pain, while minimizing opioid use when possible. And, we offer outpatient pain management services within hospitals or multi-specialty care centers. This allows many of our patients to benefit from sedation options that keep them comfortable during the procedure while still being able to return home the same day.
Pain management services near you in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region.
There are few other pain management programs in the region that offer a full spectrum of services aimed to treat the source of your pain. At MedStar Health, you can expect care from pain management experts who are all fellowship-trained by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). And, you’ll reap the benefits of our academic program, which offers access to the most advanced medical technologies, innovative treatments, the latest research, clinical trials, and more.
We accept most major insurances, and, with more than 10 locations throughout region, you won’t have to travel far.
You don’t have to live with chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about a referral today.