Chronic pain has the potential to affect every aspect of your life, from your daily routines to your ability to perform job-related tasks without distracting discomfort. No wonder an estimated 100 million or so chronic pain sufferers in the United States are constantly looking for any possible option that could result in relief. With such a large amount of information out there, it is important that those suffering focus and rely on evidence-based medicine.
What Is Evidence-Based Medicine?
Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is an approach to patient care that’s based on a mix of reliable research evidence, clinical expertise, and patient values and preferences. The goal of the EBM is to help healthcare providers and patients make well-informed decisions based on treatment options backed by reputable research and provided by equally reputable medical care providers.
How Are Treatment Recommendations Made?
Treatment recommendations are based on a detailed history, a thorough physical examination aided by relevant tests and imaging results. The imaging may include X-rays, MRIs, CT scans. Some conditions may require specialized tests like EMG or electromyography and nerve conduction studies (NCSs).
These are done under the care of appropriately trained medical providers. Patients, their families, and caregivers are intimately involved in the decision-making process that is continued for long-term monitoring management.
What Treatments Might Be Suggested?
Based on an exhaustive evaluation, a management plan is formulated that may include one or more of the following options for chronic pain relief:
. A specifically focussed physical therapy and a home exercise plan. This may consist of therapeutic exercises to improve range of motion, relieve tension around soft tissues and joints, and strengthen supporting muscle groups
• Non-opioid medications to reduce serious risks of opioids including respiratory depression and death.
• Anti-inflammatory drugs to help ease symptoms of arthritis and soft tissue inflammation that may be resulting in pain.
• Minimally invasive interventional procedures: A more direct approach that involves targeting directly the affected tissues. Epidural steroid injections, for instance, are injected into the epidural space near the spinal cord to reduce the nerve pain. Additional options include:
• Trigger point injections
• Sacroiliac (SI) joint injections
• Occipital nerve blocks
• Joint injections
• Peripheral nerve blocks
. Neuromodulation techniques:
These include peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) and spinal cord stimulation (SCS). These are relatively recent approaches that have revolutionized patient care. Newer technologies that further reduce the invasiveness and the bulk of the implanted hardware in addition to a wireless system like the one available with Stimwave ® offer avenues not available before.
What About Non-Traditional Options?
If you do opt to try approaches like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture, it is important to discuss with your physician or other medical provider to see if these are safe for you. Just because those options are non-traditional does not mean that they may not be associated with serious risks to your health.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, contact us at Pain & Spine Center of Charlottesville, to discuss evidence-based approaches that may be available to help reduce your discomfort and that may allow you to indulge in your favorite activities again.