According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50.2 million people live with chronic pain in the United States. Non-narcotic treatment options for chronic pain are essential as the US is battling an opioid epidemic. Narcotic medications initially intended to treat acute and severe pain in the short term can lead to addiction when prescribed to manage long-term ongoing pain.
This column will look at the resources of medical specialties that can be utilized to address chronic pain.
There can be multiple reasons that a person suffers from ongoing pain which directly impacts quality of life. Normal aging, traumatic injury, incapacitating migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia are among the conditions that may compel someone to look into pain management non-pharmacologic choices. Bone, joint, back and neck pain, a compression fracture, or nerve damage that fails to heal properly can all cause debilitating pain which may require multidisciplinary medical care.
Pain management specialties include rheumatology, orthopedics, neurology, physiatry or rehabilitation, acupuncture, osteopathic, and chiropractic medicine. Many of the above can provide non-invasive therapy options to treat chronic pain, and new medical advances continue to give patients a sense of hope.
One subspeciality performing a variety of minimally invasive treatments is interventional radiology. Procedures done by an interventional radiologist to heal pain include, but are not limited to, treating tumors, spine and back fractures, as well as administering nerve block injections to reduce pain in cancer patients.
Robert Gordon, MD with Jefferson Radiology and Chairman of Radiology and Interventional Radiology at Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN), stated “Interventional radiology can provide minimally invasive, well-tolerated options by treating the underlying source of the pain.”
The goal of supplemental treatments is to give patients back their quality of life by healing the source of their pain and taking patients off opioid medications.
According to Dr. Gordon, receiving appropriate treatment at the onset of symptoms is especially important. For example, if a patient has acute back pain, it is important to schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor, have an x-ray or MRI, and if applicable, be referred to the appropriate specialty provider.
Procedures done by interventional radiologists are usually performed in an outpatient setting not requiring hospitalization.
If hospitalized for a surgical procedure and needing short-term rehabilitation following hospitalization, a pain management evaluation is completed upon admission as part of the standard of care in a skilled nursing center. For information on National Health Care Associates’ affiliated skilled nursing centers, go to www.nhca.com.
For additional resources, please visit The American Chronic Pain Management Association at https://www.theacpa.org or speak to your medical provider for recommendations.
Column is written by Laura Falt, director of business development in Connecticut. Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to the community on services for older adults and is often featured in local publications.