Also known as pain medicine or algiatry, pain management is a branch of medicine that uses an interdisciplinary approach to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of people living with chronic pain. A pain management team is usually made up of nurses, pharmacists, medical practitioners, physiotherapists, physician assistants, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, and dentists. Sometimes the team has mental health experts and massage therapists, too. At Herrera Medical Group in Lewisville, TX, we offer relief to people who suffer from chronic pain.
Why Do Doctors Send You to Pain Management?
A doctor might send you to a pain management team if:
- Pain lowers the quality of your life
- Pain makes it difficult for you to sleep or eat
- Pain prevents you from engaging in activities you enjoy
- Pain affects your mood and ability to think
- Pain makes other symptoms worse
- Pain causes you and your loved ones distress and suffering
- Pain increases your heart rate and blood pressure
- Pain negatively affects healing
How Is Pain Managed?
Treatment options for pain vary depending on the type and severity of pain. Common types of pain include:
- Back Pain
- Cancer pain
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Arm pain
- Hand pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain
- Leg pain
- Foot pain
- Trunk pain
- Sciatica pain
- Upper extremity pain
Treatment Options for Pain
Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are effective in treating milder forms of pain. Acetaminophen and NSAIDs are often used to treat pain caused by muscle aches and stiffness.
Besides relieving pain, NSAIDs also reduce swelling and irritation. Pain and inflammation caused by arthritis and sore muscles can also be treated using topical pain relievers that are applied to the skin. Topical pain killers come in different forms, including sprays, creams, and lotions.
When over-the-counter medications are ineffective in treating pain, the doctor may prescribe stronger medications. Strong prescription medications for pain include antidepressants like duloxetine for musculoskeletal pain, muscle relaxants, prescription NSAIDs like celecoxib, anti-anxiety drugs like diazepam, oxycodone and acetaminophen (Tylox, Roxicet, Percocet), and hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet).
Doctors may also prescribe a short course of stronger painkillers, such as fentanyl and codeine.
Injections and Blocks
Sometimes a doctor can reduce swelling and inflammation caused by a joint problem by injecting the area with several steroid injections. For lower back pain and spinal stenosis, the doctor might recommend an epidural.
When pain in a specific organ or part of the body is caused by a group of nerves, local medication can be used to block those nerves. Treating pain with a nerve-numbing substance is called a nerve block. Common injections and nerve blocks used in pain medicine include:
- Facet injection
- Transforaminal injection
- Knee joint injection
- Sacroiliac joint injection
- Caudal steroid injection
- Cervical steroid injection
- Epidural steroid injection
- Celiac plexus block
- Ganglion impar block
- Intercoastal nerve block
- Medial branch block
- Occipital nerve block
- Root block
Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA)
As the name suggests, PCA is a self-administered pain treatment option. In this treatment option, a patient receives a computerized pump attached to a small tube. The tube allows a premeasured dose of pain medicine, often infused with opioids, to be injected subcutaneously, intravenously, or into the spine.
PCA is effective in treating terminal cancer pain and post-traumatic or post-surgical pain.
Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injection is a treatment process for muscle pain in the neck, arms, lower back, and legs. It can also treat tension headaches, fibromyalgia, and myofascial pain syndrome that is resistant to other treatment options.
During this treatment process, a health professional injects local anesthetic that may contain a steroid into a trigger point. This makes the trigger point inactive, alleviating the pain. A brief course of treatment involving a trigger point injection offers long-term pain relief.
Onabotulinumtoxina is administered through multiple injections around the head and neck every 12 weeks. It blocks signals from the muscles to the nerves, offering relief from chronic migraines and pain for up to three months at a time.
Regenerative medicine is a branch of translational research that focuses on replacing or regenerating human tissues, cells, or organs to restore or establish normal function. Some types of regenerative medicine are used in pain medicine to offer a long-term solution to chronic pain.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is a major discovery and development in modern medicine. This therapy regenerates tissue and cells damaged or degenerated by disease or aging. Stem cells are naturally found in the body in the bone marrow, fat, and in some other tissues and organs.
Stem cells are crucial in the development and growth of tissues and body organs in the embryonic stage. They also play a vital role in restoring organs and renewing tissue functions in adults.
Stem Cell Therapy in Pain Medicine
During stem cell therapy, stem cells are transferred from one part of the body to the affected area. When used in pain medicine, stem cell therapy offers relief from the pain associated with osteoarthritis. It does this by regenerating the cartilage that covers the joint surface. Degeneration and inflammation of the cartilage is the main cause of pain in osteoarthritis.
Stem cell therapy is also used to treat neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain affects the entire nervous system, including the dorsal root ganglion, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and brain. Stem cells release neurotrophic factors and replace injured neural cells providing relief from intractable neuropathic pain. Stem cell therapy can treat neuropathic pain caused by:
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
- Spinal cord injury
- Chronic constriction injury (CCI)
- Intervertebral disc disease
Therapy is also used against intractable musculoskeletal pain which does not respond to conventional medicine.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is another type of regenerative medicine used in pain management. PRP treats pain by promoting long-term healing of musculoskeletal conditions. When you get a soft tissue injury, the body responds by delivering platelet cells. Since platelets contain growth and healing factors, they trigger the body’s natural repair process.
They also attract the vital assistance of stem cells to the affected area.
PRP therapy boosts the natural healing process by delivering a higher concentration of platelets. To get platelet-rich plasma, a small sample of your blood is drawn intravenously and spun in a centrifuge at high speeds. This separates the platelets from the other blood components. The concentrated platelets are then injected in the affected area, initiating, and significantly strengthening the body’s natural healing process.
Since PRP therapy uses your blood, there is no risk of transmissible infection. You are also less likely to experience an allergic reaction than with other treatments. PRP therapy can treat pain caused by:
- Osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, shoulder, and spine
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Rotator cuff tears
- Tennis elbow
- Ankle sprains
- Chronic plantar fasciitis
- Pelvic pain and instability
- Ligament sprains
Both kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are minimally invasive back surgery procedures used to treat vertebral compression fractures. During kyphoplasty, a healthcare professional inflates a balloon inside the affected bone to create room before injecting a cement-like material into it. During vertebroplasty, a healthcare professional inserts a needle into your back and uses it to push cement into the affected bone.
Both procedures strengthen and restore the shape of the fractured vertebra, reducing the back pain caused by spinal fractures. Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty treat spinal injuries that are common in people with osteoporosis, cancers, or hemangiomas (noncancerous blood vessel growths).
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is a pain treatment option that utilizes electrical stimulation. In this treatment process, electrodes, placed on the skin near the source of pain, deliver a low-voltage electrical current. The electricity interferes with the pain signals from the nerves in the affected area before they reach the brain. TENS therapy is painless and has shown promising potential against diabetic neuropathy.
Bioelectric therapy treats pain by preventing pain messages from reaching the brain. It also triggers the production endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals that reduce or eliminate pain by blocking pain messages from reaching the brain. Bioelectric therapy is used in pain medicine to treat pain caused by:
- Muscle pain
- Back pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Diabetic neuropathy
- TMJ disorder
Since bioelectric therapy provides temporary pain control, it is often used with other pain treatment options. Patients who use bioelectric treatment together with conventional pain-relievers sometimes reduce their dosage of pain medication by up to 50%.
A physical therapist uses special techniques, such as stretching, pain-relieving movements, and strengthening to improve mobility and function impaired by an injury or disability. They can also use other pain treatment options, such as TENS, to relieve pain.
One of the most common and effective psychological treatment options for pain is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people suffering from pain understand the link between their physiology and emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The main goal for CBT is to change how patients think, remember, and reason when in pain. CBT seeks to encourage helpful thought patterns through healthy activities, such as regular exercise and pacing.
During therapy, patients are encouraged to make some lifestyle changes that will improve their sleeping patterns and equip them with better coping skills for pain and other stressors. Patients are taught coping techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, relaxation, and biofeedback. CBT is effective in managing chronic low back pain and fibromyalgia. Besides relieving pain, CBT also significantly reduces physical and psychosocial disability.
Although rest is good for pain relief, resting for too long can worsen your pain and makes you more vulnerable to injury, especially when you attempt to move. According to health experts, regular exercise can offer long-term relief to pain by improving strength, muscle tone, and flexibility. Additionally, when you exercise, your body produces endorphins that block pain messages from reaching the brain. Common exercises for pain relief include yoga, cycling, swimming, walking, and rowing.
In recent times, people have explored more treatment options for pain. To alleviate pain, some people turn to alternative therapies for pain relief, including acupuncture, mind-body therapies, massage, osteopathic (bone) manipulation therapies, certain herbal therapies, chiropractic therapies, and some nutritional supplements.
Pain can negatively affect your physical and mental functions, preventing you from living a fulfilling life. It can also lower the quality of your life and affect your overall wellbeing by stopping you from engaging in activities you enjoy and interfering with your sleep, mood, and mobility. If you suffer from pain that persists for over three months, you should seek specialized pain treatment. Specialized treatment allows you to overcome chronic pain and regain control of your life. For effective pain management services, contact Herrera Medical Group in Lewisville, TX.