One thing about pain — you know it when you have it. And if you suffer from constant chronic pain, over time it wears you down — physically, mentally, emotionally. However, you may not know what kind or what category of pain you have.
There are 2 main categories of pain — both of which can be mild, moderate, or severe:
- Acute pain: Occurs immediately after an injury and lasts no longer than 2 months when treated properly.
- Chronic pain: Any type of pain that lasts 6 months or longer. Chronic pain is often difficult to treat, because the cause can be hard to determine. It can also vary from one person to the next — individuals with seemingly the same kind of chronic pain may need different treatments.
Managing Chronic Pain
The treatment option that will work best for you depends on your type of pain, how severe it is, and how you respond to pain treatment. The fact is, only a physician can determine if you are a good candidate for various pain treatment options. Pain Management Specialists are physicians who specialize in treating chronic pain. These physicians receive years of advanced, specialized training in pain management and focus on treating patients with severe pain.
There are 3 levels of pain, and each may have different forms of treatment. Usually, your physician will follow a treatment plan that begins with basic therapies (like resting and nutrition) and progresses to more aggressive solutions, depending on the type and severity of pain. The treatment plan also depends on how you respond to any particular treatment.
- Rest and diet changes
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (ex: ibuprofen)
- Cognitive and behavioral modification
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Opioids (Prescription painkillers)
- Nerve blocks (injection of an anesthetic, steroid, and/or anti-inflammatory into the pain area)
- Thermal procedures (extreme heat or cold delivered through needles or probes)
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
SCS, also known as nerve stimulation, uses electrical signals to mask the perception of pain traveling from the painful area to the brain. In place of pain, patients feel a mild tingling sensation called "paresthesia." SCS may provide long-lasting pain relief and can be used with other therapies. Patients are able to control the intensity of the therapy, as well as turn it on and off, using a wireless remote control.
Surgical treatments may range from minor outpatient procedures to brain and spinal procedures. Surgery may be needed when structural problems occur within the spinal column often caused by injury or disease.
- Implantable drug pumps
Pumps deliver pain medication directly to the space surrounding the spinal cord. Direct application reduces the amount of opioids needed to relieve painful symptoms.
Often used as a last resort when other therapies fail, Neuroablation is a surgical technique that destroys nerves and tissue, permanently blocking nerve signals to the brain.