What is Pain Medicine?
Pain medicine is a specialty closely related to, but separate from, anesthesiology. Whereas anesthesiologists typically work to relieve a patient’s pain during surgery or another medical procedure, pain medicine specialists work to relieve their patients’ pain as they are out living their lives.
Pain medicine specialists treat patients who have acute or chronic pain. The pain may be a symptom of their problem (e.g. they are hurting because they were in a car accident), or the pain may be the problem itself (e.g. they are having migraine headaches). The pain specialist’s goal is to prevent pain from interfering with a patient’s quality of life.
Pain medicine specialists must have a thorough understanding of the physiology of pain, how it is caused, and what effects it has on the body. A good pain medicine specialist is able to evaluate patients who are hurting and who may not always be able to communicate their problems very well. To gain more information about their patients’ condition, pain medicine physicians can interpret specialized imaging tests. Using this information, pain medicine specialists must be able to prescribe a balanced treatment plan.
There are several treatments that pain medicine specialists may use to alleviate pain for their patients. They can prescribe medication, perform certain procedures, and refer patients to rehabilitation services. Often they will recommend multiple treatment methods to be used simultaneously. Some of these pain treatments include:
Alternative medicine therapies, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, and hypnosis
Being in pain takes away your enjoyment of life. It can lead to depression and stop you from engaging in even everyday activities. Because pain can’t be seen or tested for, it is sometimes overlooked by others. A pain medicine specialist works to safely restore your quality of life.
What is Interventional Pain Medicine?
Interventional pain medicine is a specialty that is devoted to the management of pain through medical procedures, without the routine use of prescription medications. Usually practiced by anesthesiologists or pain medicine specialists, this subspecialty has had a marked increase in demand in recent years, as the illegal abuse of narcotic painkillers has become a nation-wide problem.
Interventional pain medicine physicians must be adept at diagnosing their patients. Until they can accurately pinpoint the source of the pain, it can be difficult to treat it effectively. In some cases, the pain has an obvious cause, such as the hurt experienced when healing after surgery or when dealing with some cancers. In other cases, there is no obvious problem causing the pain, and the pain itself is the issue. This can be the case with chronic lower back pain, migraines, neuropathies, and other disorders.
There are many treatment options that interventional pain medicine doctors might use to ease a patient’s pain, ranging from non-invasive to minimally invasive. Some of these treatments are:
Facet injections, which are injections of small amounts of anesthetic into the joints of the spine
Radiofrequency denervation, or the use of radio waves to stop painful nerves from firing
Spinal cord stimulation, or the use of electrical currents along the spine to interfere with the transmission of pain signals
Implanted intrathecal or epidural injection drug delivery systems
Reducing pain doesn’t just help you feel better -- it allows you to become more active and increases your ability to heal. The goal of interventional pain medicine is to help people who are hurting to get back to working, playing, sleeping, and enjoying their life fully.
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