In the past, when a person was suffering from pain, it was typically their primary care doctor that would help them manage it, usually by either prescribing medication, or referring them to a surgeon for surgery. As medical science advanced however, it was found that diagnosing and treating pain was much more complex than previously thought, and managing pain was not as easy as simply relying on medicine and surgery. With these advances in knowledge about the causes of pain, and the discovery of new and better treatment options often utilizing advanced technology, a new branch of medicine began to emerge known as chronic pain management.
Chronic pain management is a very specialized branch of medicine that focuses on treating patients suffering from all types of pain, including back pain, musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, cancer pain, arthritis, and neuropathic pain. Properly managing pain requires a correct diagnosis of the cause(s), and often times this is not a simple as many people think. Often times pain is the result of several overlapping conditions that contribute to a person’s pain, or due to diseases that are not well understood by most doctors such as painful neuropathy.
The first step in chronic pain management is to properly diagnosis of what is causing the pain. Once an accurate diagnosis is made and the underlying cause(s) of a patients pain has been determined, the next step in chronic pain management is to develop a patient-specific treatment program. This often requires an interdisciplinary team approach, to both treat any underlying conditions, as well as to get the patient moving and active again and to treat any co-occurring disorders.
For example, often times, chronic pain leads to depression, which over time, can become very serious and debilitating, at which point mental health specialists such as counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mindfulness training experts, need to be part of the treatment team. Sometimes, the depression and/or pain causes the patient to turn to drugs or alcohol as away of dealing with their misery, at which point they need the help of an addiction specialist who can provide therapy and group counseling.
Other specialist who often get involved in chronic pain management include physical therapists, physician assistants, massage therapists, diet and nutrition counselors, and even acupuncture practitioners. Unless all of the underlying causes of a patients pain are addressed by a team of specialists, it will be very difficult to bring the patient the real relief they are looking for.
During the initial treatment period, a chronic pain management specialist will often utilize low doses of medication and minimally-invasive injections, as a way of reducing the patients pain so they can begin to move and get active again. During this early healing period, patients often return once a month to report back on how the treatment is affecting their levels of pain, mobility, and general well-being. This allows the pain management specialists to see how the specialized program is working for their patient, and to modify it as necessary.
Often times, recovery can be slow a steady process, as long as the patient is committed to sticking to all of the prescribed therapies. Other times, simple procedures such as nerve blocks, are able to stop the pain caused by a specific nerve, and bring what many patients describe as instant and miraculous relief.
As new cutting-edge research continues to shed even more light on the root causes of pain, most recently, new understandings have been discovered about a condition known as painful neuropathy, which requires a different type of treatment than other types of pain. Once again, a good chronic pain management specialist will be able to test you for conditions such as painful neuropathy, and treat you for it if necessary. There have even been recent news articles about people suffering for decades with pain, who tried everything, including surgery, only to find out it was painful neuropathy that could be treated.
If you are tired of living with your pain, and have not yet been to a chronic pain specialist, we encourage you to find one in your area that can help you lead the better and more active life you deserve.