Interventional Pain Management: A Comprehensive Approach to Chronic Pain

Back Pain FaceFor chronic pain sufferers, finding relief from their pain can be difficult and time consuming. Sometimes patients are shuffled back and forth between primary care physicians, specialists, and therapists of all kinds in search of a solution to their pain problems. Interventional Pain Management can be a useful alternative for patients who have exhausted other treatment methods without success and may be the solution chronic pain sufferers are looking for. Read on to find out more about this emerging area of medicine.

What is Interventional Pain Management?
According to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), interventional pain management is a "discipline of medicine devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of pain related disorders." Interventional pain medicine utilizes a multidisciplinary approach, in which a team of health care professionals works together, to provide a full range of treatments and services for patients suffering from chronic and/or acute pain.

The goals of interventional pain management are to relieve, reduce, or manage pain and improve a patient's overall quality of life through minimally invasive techniques specifically designed to diagnose and treat painful conditions. Interventional pain management also strives to help patients return to their everyday activities quickly and without heavy reliance on medications.

Meet Your Medical Team
In cooperation with your primary care physician (or another physician who may refer you to an interventional pain management physician), the members of your medical team may include one or more of the following health care professionals:

doctors view cervical x-ray
  • Physiatrists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Internists
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Nurses
  • Psychologists and psychiatrists

Another important member of the team is you! In fact, interventional pain management emphasizes and relies on the full cooperation of patients throughout the treatment process in order for a successful outcome to be achieved.

Back Pain and Interventional Pain Management Treatments
For back pain sufferers, interventional pain management techniques can be particularly useful. In addition to a thorough medical history and physical examination, interventional pain management physicians have a wide array of treatments that can be used including the following:

  • Epidural injections (in all areas of the spine): the use of anesthetic and steroid medications injected into the epidural space to relieve pain or diagnose a specific condition.
  • Nerve, root, and medial branch blocks: injections done to determine if a specific spinal nerve root is the source of pain. Blocks also can be used to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Facet joint injections: an injection used to determine if the facet joints are the source of pain. These injections can also provide pain relief.
  • Discography: an "inside" look into the discs to determine if they are the source of a patient's pain. This procedure involves the use of a dye that is injected into a disc and then examined using x-ray or CT Scan.
  • Pulsed Radiofrequency Neurotomy (PRFN): a minimally invasive procedure that disables spinal nerves and prevents them from transmitting pain signals to the brain.
  • Rhizotomy: a procedure in which pain signals are "turned off" through the use of heated electrodes that are applied to specific nerves that carry pain signals to the brain.
  • Spinal cord stimulation: the use of electrical impulses that are used to block pain from being perceived in the brain.
  • Intrathecal pumps: a surgically implanted pump that delivers pain medications to the precise location in the spine where the pain is located.
  • Percutaneous Discectomy/Nucleoplasty: a procedure in which tissue is removed from the disc in order to decompress and relieve pressure.

Interventional pain management physicians often include other treatments such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and lifestyle modification (such as exercise, diet, and smoking cessation) to further enhance these procedures.

What Can You Expect?
At your first appointment with an Interventional Pain Management specialist, you will be given a thorough physical exam. The physician will also talk to you about your past medical history. If possible, try to bring with you any past x-rays or test results related to your pain condition.

It is also very important for you to inform the doctor about other treatments you have tried, including medications that you are currently taking. Be sure to include alternative therapies you may have tried such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, or massage. Your present condition will be discussed, including where your pain is located, the severity, when it occurs, and if you are experiencing other symptoms related to your pain.

Before any treatments are started, your interventional pain management physician will perform diagnostic tests to rule out other conditions that may present similar symptoms. These tests may include x-rays, CT scan, MRI, and possibly blood tests. Psychological evaluations may also be done at this time. The physician may perform additional studies (no need to if the studies are current and appropriate) and review past studies.

A thorough physical and diagnostic evaluation allows your medical information to be carefully analyzed. The result enables your interventional pain management specialist to design a comprehensive pain program specifically for you.

Once the treatment plan has been determined, your interventional pain management physician will help you to coordinate the therapies you need. In many cases, interventional pain management treatments and services are offered in one facility, eliminating the need to go from place to place to receive care. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. Your full participation in your treatment is important for a successful outcome.

You Are Not Alone
If you are suffering from chronic pain and have not been able to find treatment that provides relief, consider seeing an Interventional Pain Management physician. The comprehensive approach, with you as an important team member, may well be the answer you are looking for.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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