Millions of American suffer from chronic pain. For them, every day can be filled with frustration, helplessness and even anger. For physicians, finding the cause of that pain and determining how best to treat it can be also be a challenge.
Dr. Juan Ruiz-Hurtarte of Water’s Edge Pain Clinic talks about chronic pain and interventional pain medicine.
What are some common health conditions that case chronic pain?
People who suffer from chronic pain might have arthritis, lower back problems, headaches or cancer. Some of the more common causes of chronic pain include:
- Injury, disease or surgery
- Spinal pain and related spinal nerve injuries
- Illness, such as shingles, arthritis, diabetes and cancer
- Syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, visceral and pelvic pain syndromes, complex regional pain syndrome, headaches and persistent muscular (myofascial) pain syndromes
It’s important to remember pain is your body’s way of telling you when it is being hurt or damaged. It’s an alarm, telling you to pay attention to a problem. If you ignore pain, the problem may get worse.
So when should I see a doctor for pain?
In general, you should see a doctor when pain lasts for more than a few days or is very severe. In some cases, the earlier chronic pain—and any underlying problem—is treated, the more fully you will recover.
Too many people are stoic. They don’t go to their physician as early as they should, and many of our treatments are more effective the earlier they are started, such as physical therapy.
What is interventional pain medicine?
People think pain medicine is all about narcotics, but we have a number of other ways to help people treat chronic pain that are just as – or sometimes more – effective. Treatments will vary depending on the cause of the pain, and not every treatment works for every person. You may have to try different treatments, or a combination of treatments, before finding what works for each patient
- Relaxation therapy to relieve stress and tension, which may be intensifying the pain.
- Physical therapy uses exercise and movement to help relieve pain and improve your ability to function
- Psychological therapy can provide support and coping techniques
- Surgery may be used when other treatments have failed to work. It may treat the underlying cause of pain—as when surgery is used to repair damaged joints that are causing arthritis pain.
Again, medication may not be the answer for every person dealing with pain. Other methods, such as acupuncture, massage, and heat and cold treatments may be good alternatives. Talk to your doctor about which alternative treatments could work for you.