Chronic pain in whatever form can ruin a person’s life. Be it back pain, Fibromyalgia pain, or migraine headaches to name a few, find the cause and treating the problem are challenges for both physicians and the patients who have to endure the suffering.
Diagnosis can take a very long time. The patient will usually undergo a lengthy initial examination which includes much more than a standard physical exam. You will be asked a battery of questions about where your pain is, how often it occurs, how long you have had it, what you have tried to help yourself, and how you rate your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest amount of pain.
Next you will likely undergo physical tests including blood work, x-rays and possibly an MRI or CT scan. There are even tests to ascertain if you have nerve damage, pinched nerves or other sources of chronic pain.
Pain is defined as chronic only if it has persisted for six months or longer. That six months may very well turn into years as you strive to find the right doctor and the right tests to diagnose and ultimately treat the cause.
A persons perception of pain is quite individual. There are people who do have a higher threshold for pain than others, as well as people who are highly sensitive to pain and therefore more affected by it. The first course of treatment may be medication. This can come in the form of an anti-inflammatory because inflammation is a major source of pain. Your doctor may suggest that your try over the counter anti-inflammatory medication at first and if that does not work, you could get a prescription for a stronger medication. Physical therapy may also be recommended, but not everyone can exercise when suffering from severe pain.
Opiods are often a last resort because they can cause addition and have the potential for abuse. However, these days doctors due recognize that when controlled properly, opiods are in fact the only medication that can help some chronic pain patients. With proper use and monitoring you may have no problem at all obtaining and using opiods as needed. There are even opiod patches that you can wear for up to 30 days which release a controlled amount of the substance on a steady basis.
For lower back pain, a common outpatient procedure is a steroidal injection into the area of pain. This is done in a sterile environment and a Fluoroscope is used to give the doctor a visual picture of exactly where he should inject the steroid. This procedure does not hurt very much, although there is a slight pinch and sometimes a burning sensation as the initial numbing agent is injected. It may take a series of such injections before you have long term relief. It does not work for everyone, but is a major advancement and has become much more readily available in the past decade.
Another treatment that has become more mainstream is Radio Frequency Lesioning. In this procedure, you are also awake and alert and go home almost immediately after. You are numbed, probably with a Lidocaine injection and then again using the Fluoroscope and having viewed MRI or X-Ray reports, the doctor injects needles into several areas and they are heated via radio waves. The end result is that nerves which are likely causing the pain are singed, thus the pain is blocked from traveling to your brain. The nerves are not severed, and will likely heal and grow back necessitating a repeat procedure in a year or two.
As scientists study the human brain more, and have access to exactly how pain affects the brain, they are learning ways to adapt the brains reaction to pain with medications. Newer smarter medicines and upcoming less invasive procedures are on the horizon, and it is always wise to ask your doctor what is new in pain management.
A Pain Clinic employees doctors and anesthesiologist who specialize in the field of not only pain management, but treatment of chronic pain. These are the professionals you want to seek out for the latest treatments. Don’t give up, there is help available you just have to keep on trying and advocate for yourself.