Getting to the source of your pain is of utmost importance for pain doctors. Pain may have been a part of human existence from the beginning, but even after centuries of study, there are still many unknowns. Pain is often a network of unpleasant sensations that can create problems in multiple areas of the body, making an accurate diagnosis very challenging. This is especially true of back pain symptoms which includes 24 vertebrae, dozens of related muscles and a multitude of delicate nerves.
In this complex network of interrelated systems, any pain can trigger inflammation or tissue damage that can induce secondary pain symptoms. The difficulty of identifying the source of pain is why referring providers often turn to pain specialists for guidance. Because of the challenging nature of the field, pain specialists often require a team of medical professionals with a multitude of skillsets that assist with the assessment and analysis of the nature of the pain and physiological symptoms to determine the most effective individualized treatment plan.
Your pain treatment team may use one or more of the following techniques to diagnose and treat chronic pain issues:
- Nerve blocks—this technique uses injections to deliver medications near the impacted nerve to help pinpoint the source of pain. If the correct nerve is identified, then pain should subside in a matter of days or weeks.
- Radiofrequency rhizotomy ablation (RFA) —an x-ray-guided needle that uses electrical current is applied to the dysfunctional nerve, disrupting the transmission of the pain signal back to the spinal cord it. This treatment may provide pain relief for six to twelve months, during which your physician may recommend other interventional pain management techniques like physical therapy.
- Facet joint injections—similar to a nerve block, a facet joint injection places an anesthetic or steroid near one of the vertebral joints to help identify if a facet joint is the cause of the pain. If the joint is accurately targeted, there should be an immediate cessation of pain, followed by a longer-term pain reduction in a few days, as the anti-inflammatory begins to take effect.
- Discography—if your pain physician suspects that a spinal disc—the cushioning tissue between vertebrae—is the cause of your pain, then a discogram might be appropriate. This procedure will involve an injection of contrast liquid into the suspected disc. You will then undergo an x-ray to examine the disc for a bulge or rupture.
Once your physician has identified the source of your chronic pain, a specific individualized plan can be devised in order to treat and sustain. Depending on the nature of your condition, your doctor may recommend treatment options including physical therapy, lifestyle modifications or cognitive behavioral therapy. More medical professionals are asking patients to try alternative treatments like acupuncture, music therapy and yoga. While many of these treatments may or may not help with your pain, it is in your best interest to give them a try and avoid more risky therapies like dangerous prescription drugs or surgery.
Article written by:Dr. Robert Moghim– CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.