Procedures used by pain specialists don't necessarily cure chronic pain, but they make can make it easier to live manage.
Dr. Eric Pearson of Total Pain Care in Meridian says a large number of the patients he sees complain of chronic pain in their lower back.
"We see it every day. It is almost a universal problem," said Pearson. "But in some people, the pain can become very debilitating."
On the day of our visit, a patient had protruding discs in her back that are pushing on the nerves that come out of the spine and go down the leg. To help ease that pain, Pearson administers an epidural steroid injection while the patient is sedated.
He says the procedure involves putting a small needle into the back. The injection is done under X-ray, so Pearson places a screen in front of him to avoid exposure to radiation.
"I know based on her MRI where the nerves are being pinched. And by using this, the X-ray, I can actually guide a very small, skinny needle right into that area, that disc space," Pearson said. "So by treating the pain, we hope to increase her level of functioning, improve her quality of life. She should be able to sleep better and be much more active."
Another common complaint local pain specialists hear from patients concerns chronic neck pain. Dr. Ken Staggs administered a cervical epidural steroid injection on another patient. Staggs says the patient has cervical disc protrusions and used to have pain down his arm, but frequent injections have helped with the arm pain.
"The neck pain will tend to smolder," said Staggs. "He doesn't need surgery for it. He doesn't have weakness. And he's able to do a lot more since he's been getting these injections. His pain's reduced. He walks. And he's glad he's able to do those things he wasn't able to do beforehand."
In most cases, steroid injections don't actually cure chronic pain. But Staggs says the injections help his patients manage that pain more effectively.
"Some patients may do well with initial series of two or three and I won't have to see them again," said Staggs. "Some patients will have recurring pain and they find that getting an injection every three to five months allows them to do the things they want to do and really knocks their pain down."
In Part 3, we'll spotlight another treatment used to try to provide relief for patients with chronic pain.