Pain Management: Tell Me Where It Hurts, Part 2

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.

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  • by ginny Location: MI on Dec 8, 2011 at 08:25 AM
    Really good pain management docs understand the importance of integrating physical therapy and behavioral med and NUTRTITION into their practice otherwise Dave could be correct about shot mills etc. There are more than just epidural injections as well, if a person can get help to reduce internal inflammation so that the pain is also reduced so they can then actually get more active (most patients are also overweight and carry tummy wt that contributes to pain and disc issues) more mobile and get healthier. However there are plenty of patients who actually prefer shots or have been misdiagnosed repeatedly so what could've been a minor problem becomes a major problem in funtion. Nerves that are pinched for years and years aren't magically going to work again so that pain and discomfort may actually require shots as stated below regardless of additional intervention. Also there are plenty of patients who just want the magic pill (shots, surgery etc and there's no such thing).
  • by Robert Clark on Nov 26, 2011 at 08:35 AM
    Chronic Pancreatitis Pain :)
  • by dave on Nov 23, 2011 at 09:37 AM
    Dr Staggs- pain management isnt meant to cure pain-its meant to make people dependent on pain medicine. With 85% of back pain considered nonspecific- theres no doubt modern medicine isnt all broken up about the ever rising prevalence of back pain. In fact i think that means more profits for pain management specialists-most of whom dont do dry needling or know about corrective exercise or sot, or primal reflex release technique, or neuiral organization technique. The pain managers maintain the status quo of poorly treated pain in America
    • reply
      by pain sufferer on Nov 26, 2011 at 02:30 AM in reply to dave
      dave..that is not Dr Staggs goal.. I know I said in a previous post I thouth he berats his patients. But in this case consider how risky surgery is and how costly. Surgery can end up causing paralysis or even more pain or not be successful at all. If steriod injections helps someone live a more pain free and productive life then it is worth it. Who said this patient is on any addictive drugs? In my case this is not a treatment that would help.
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