Managing Chronic Back or Neck Pain
Most cases of acute back or neck pain are treatable, that is -- the cause of the pain is identified and a treatment plan is developed. The patient's pain usually goes away or is reduced as a result. Chronic back or neck pain, on the other hand, often has to be managed. This is because what can cause chronic pain may be difficult to determine. The treatment plan may require multiple and/or combined therapies. The complexity of chronic pain may mean it takes a patient longer to find relief from their symptoms. Pain management specialists have many different therapies from which to create a chronic pain treatment plan. Such as:
There are many types of spinal injections available to diagnose and treat different disorders. A sampling includes:
Epidural Injections and Nerve Root Blocks consist of anesthetic and steroid medications that are injected into the epidural space of the spine. Such injections are used to help diagnose a condition and/or relieve pain. An epidural injection is often performed to ease pain that radiates into the arms or legs.
Facet Joint Injections and Medial Branch Blocks help to determine if the facet joints are the source of pain. Besides their value diagnostically, such injections may help reduce cervical (neck), thoracic (chest area), and lumbar (back) pain.
Sacroiliac Joint Injections target relief at the joints in the lower back where the pelvis and spine join. The injection offers a two-fold purpose. First, the medication (anesthetic and steroid) helps to reduce joint inflammation and pain. Second, it can help determine if the sacroiliac joint(s) are the pain source.
Other Invasive Options
Pulsed Radiofrequency Neurotomy (PRFN) is a minimally invasive procedure that disables spinal nerves and prevents them from sending pain signals to the brain.
Rhizotomy is a procedure that 'turns off' pain signals by using heated electrodes applied to specific nerves that carry pain signals to the brain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) and Intrathecal Pumps are advanced invasive pain management options. These are usually performed on a trial basis first to determine if the patient will benefit from treatment.
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) produces electrical impulses to block pain from being perceived in the brain.
An Intrathecal Pump is a surgically implanted device that delivers a measured amount of pain medication within the spinal canal.
Surgery is always the last resort, unless the patient's condition warrants immediate surgical intervention (e.g. bowel, bladder or profound neurologic dysfunction). When non-surgical treatments are not effective, spine surgery may be considered. Percutaneous Discectomy/Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that removes disc tissue and relieves pressure from spinal nerves. There are other types of spine surgery; some are complicated and may require spinal instrumentation and fusion procedures.
Now that you've read about common chronic pain treatment options, test your knowledge by taking the Chronic Pain Treatments Quiz!
Pain Control Improves Lives
Unfortunately, many people feel pain is something they have to live with, to "grin and bear it", or is an unavoidable part of growing older. Today, advances in pain management offer patients and physicians choices to help control pain. Many cases of acute and chronic pain can successfully be treated. Do you suffer pain? If so, please see your physician or pain management specialist to discuss possible solutions for your condition.