What is Pain Management?
Pain management is the process of relieving pain and coming up with a treatment plan to address the issues causing the pain. There are specialists in pain management depending on where the pain is occurring, such as back pain specialists, neck pain specialists, and joint pain management. For example, nerve damage from a herniated disc in the spine can cause pain in the lower back, which can radiate through the legs and feet. Sometimes this pain is debilitating, causing numbness and the inability to walk or stand. If the symptoms aren’t too severe, back pain management might be the first step in intervention.
Advanced Pain Management Medications
The first pain management techniques used will probably be physical therapy / exercise, changes in lifestyle, and medications such as non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. Chiropractic approaches are also something that helps people, and in conjunction with other non-surgical pain management it could be enough for people without debilitating pain. Usually your doctor will discuss these options with you, determine your pain levels and the extent of your injuries and determine what avenue to take from there. If none of these pain relief techniques are solving your problems, there are a few more things that can be tried in pain management.
Epidural Steroid Injections
These types of injections are used for meaningful reduction and pain while your body goes through the healing process. An epidural steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure to relieve pain in the neck, arm, back, or leg that is caused by spinal nerve inflammation or pinched nerves due to herniated discs or spinal stenosis. The steroid injection itself has both a corticosteroid, as well as an anesthetic numbing agent, which are delivered to the epidural space of the spine. The epidural area is between the bony vertebra and dura sac which surrounds your spinal nerves. Because this is just an injection, it’s a relatively quick procedure with few complications or risks, and can provide substantial pain relief. People who are candidates for an epidural injection are those suffering from pain due to a spinal stenosis, spondylosis, a herniated disc, or sciatica. Though, if this doesn’t resolve your pain there may be a few more options to explore.
Facet Joint Injections
Facet joints in your spine are where the spinal vertebra connect to each other, and they allow your spine to bend and twist. They have cartilage between the bones which allow for smooth movement, but when damaged they can cause immense pain. Facet joint injections in the neck or back provide pain relief in these areas of your spine. The medication is placed directly into the facet joint, and the pain relief can last several months. The injection can be repeated one or two times over a six month period, but it’s not recommended that you get more than that.
Radiofrequency Ablation for Pain
Radiofrequency ablation, also known as RFA, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radio waves to burn nerve endings that are causing pain, which eliminates pain signals to the brain. This type of procedure is used for people who are experiencing neck, back, or knee pain and is a good option for avoiding open surgery and it’s complications. The radio waves are transmitted through a needle which is inserted at the target nerve area, usually the in the back or neck. The pain relief can last from 9 months to more than 2 years, but because the nerve has a chance to regrow through the burned lesion the pain may return. The regrowth of the nerve usually happens 6-12 months after the procedure, and it can be repeated if it’s found to be an effective pain management tool.
Pain Relief Surgery
When dealing with back pain there are a few surgeries that can help with pain relief. Though surgery is only considered when all other pain management options are utilized, or the pain is so severe that surgery is the only option left. One consideration for back or neck pain relief is a micro discectomy. This surgery uses small incisions and an endoscope to be the least invasive possible. Funneling surgical tools through an endoscope with a light and camera, the surgeon can remove portions of the herniated disc safely without causing unneeded tissue damage.
Laser Spine Surgery
Another surgical option for treating herniated disc pain is an advanced laser spine surgery. While a microdiscectomy uses an endoscope to be as minimally invasive as possible, laser spine surgery uses a needle to feed the laser through. Due to the insertion point being a needle, no incision is required in this procedure making the recovery time much faster than traditional spinal surgeries. The laser is inserted into the herniating disc and uses the heat from the laser to evaporate a portion of the disc. This will prevent the disc from bulging and stop nerve pain at the herniating disc site.
As you can see pain management depends on the severity of your symptoms, and how you respond to each treatment. Not everyone has the same reaction to any treatment, so working closely with a pain management specialist is an important step in resolving back pain.