People often erroneously think of treatment by a pain management specialist as consisting of only narcotic “pain killers.”
However, the practice of pain management is diagnosis driven just like other medical specialties. The discipline of pain medicine is concerned with the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of painful disorders.
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. There are approximately 116 million Americans with chronic pain, defined as pain that has lasted more than three months and 25 million people with acute pain.
Like other doctors, the pain management specialist must examine each patient and create a treatment plan based on the patient’s symptoms, examination and other findings. There are a vast number of treatment options available for spinal or orthopedic pain. Treatments for spinal or orthopedic pain vary just like any other treatment -it depends on what is the cause of your problem.
While patients may go to a pain management physician because they “hurt,” all pain does not respond to narcotics. It is an unfortunate and common misconception that if patients go to the pain management doctor, they will be treated with narcotics.
First of all, it is important to understand that there are different types of spinal or orthopedic pain. One might have muscular pain, ligamentous pain, joint pain, bone pain, pain due to a herniated disks, pain from a fracture, or pain from a pinched nerve or a nerve injury. Pain medicines are prescribed based upon the source of the pain.
Some patients who come to pain management never need pain medications. They may respond to an injection, other intervention, bracing, or to physical therapy. Our knowledge has increased to where we understand more on how poor posture and walking improperly all perpetuate musculoskeletal pain. With sophisticated use of exercises, tailored to a patient’s specifics needs, physical therapy may be helpful. Always ask about non-surgical options for your orthopedic or spinal pain.
An evaluation in physical therapy may reveal that the patient’s pain is a result of poor movement, tight muscles, stiff muscles, weak musculature, or postural problems. For example, we know that patients who have degenerative disk disease, where the disk between two bones has started to wear and tear, can decrease the pressure on the disk by doing exercises to increase your core musculature and eliminate or reduce back pain.
The pain management physician does not perform surgery. Timing is key to the success of your treatment. You should not delay or ignore an evaluation for spinal or orthopedic pain, and wait too long before seeking an evaluation with a pain specialist. Early intervention might lead to a better outcome. Listen to your body and don’t live in pain … and that’s my Cup of Tea!