Pain management is a complex matter. It’s hard to try and figure things out on your own and a good pain management doctor can make a world of difference.
Your options for pain management are more varied than you might realize. While most people assume that pain management is all about strong opioid-based medications, the truth is very different. You can do numerous things to try to alleviate your pain, and your doctor can help.
Many people feel intimidated to ask questions when they’re in a pain management clinic. They may feel embarrassed or worried that their pain will be dismissed or downplayed. But asking the right questions can help you and your physician uncover the best course of treatment for your needs.
At Southern Coast Spine & Pain Specialists we understand how overwhelming the process of finding a solution to treat your pain is. We also understand how vital a positive patient experience is in the healing process. So we want to ensure that you have as much information as you need to make the best choice for yourself.
We’ve completed a list of the top five questions to ask your pain management doctor. Once you have answers to these questions, you’re ensured that you have adequate information to make an informed choice about your healthcare.
1. What at-home exercises should I be doing for my pain?
Exercise has been proven to decrease the effects of chronic pain on the body. Exercise helps reduce inflammation, increase mobility, and reduce pain. It can even help strengthen the bones and muscles to be less susceptible to injuries later on.
Exercise for pain relief doesn’t have to be vigorous to be helpful. Some of the best activities for pain relief are gentle and you can afford to do them from the comfort of your own home.
Try the following recommended exercises to help ease your pain:
- Tai Chi
- Swimming or water exercise
To benefit from exercise, start slowly. Taking it easy at first is the key to success. Then increase your intensity or length of exercise by no more than 10% each week to reduce your chance of injury. Always remember, if any activity hurts or increases your pain, you should stop.
2. Are there any regenerative medicine options I should consider for my pain?
Regenerative medicine is a treatment that may be overlooked, but it is a good option for some people. Regenerative medicine uses therapies beyond simply treating an illness or disease and focuses on repairing the part of the body that is injured.
Two commonly recommended regenerative medicine treatments are platelet-rich plasma and bone marrow aspirate concentrate.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
Platelets help your blood clot. They also help your body heal. Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. By injecting platelet-rich plasma into the body, it can help speed up the healing process. Athletes commonly use this therapy to treat sports injuries.
PRP injections treat muscle injuries, torn tendons, tendonitis, and arthritis-related joint pain. The injections use your plasma and can take several weeks to see results.
Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate (BMAC)
Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate uses your body’s stem cells, taken from bone marrow, to treat orthopedic illness and injuries. The BMAC stem cells are injected into the affected area to stimulate regeneration and healing.
BMAC is slightly more complex than PRP but it can be a good option for people with osteoarthritis in the shoulder, knee, and hip. It can provide long-lasting relief for many people.
3. What is a diagnostic injection and is it something I should try?
A diagnostic injection can help your doctor determine the underlying causes of your pain. Knowing what exactly is causing your pain can help in choosing the best treatment plan.
Diagnostic injections may involve anesthetic injections into the painful area to identify the cause of the pain. If the anesthetic provides pain relief, your doctor will know the exact spot to treat.
Some diagnostic injections help identify injuries by using contrast agents to help reveal injuries to cartilage or ligaments. Once your doctor has identified the location of the damage, he can devise a treatment plan to heal it.
4. Are there any imaging or lab studies that may help with my treatment plan?
To treat pain effectively your doctor should know the underlying causes of the pain. There are diagnostic tests that can help pinpoint the location of the damaged or injured body part so that your doctor can treat it.
Sometimes areas of pain can overlap, making it hard to identify the cause of the pain. For example, a herniated disc in your neck may cause pain in both your neck and your arm or your shoulder. Unfortunately, treating your arm or shoulder won’t solve the problem, so diagnostic tests may be necessary to find the cause.
- X-rays help evaluate joints and bones.
- MRIs help diagnose soft tissue like muscles, nerves, and vertebral discs.
- CT scans are an alternative to MRIs.
- A Nerve Conduction Study (NSC) can help determine the location of nerve damage in the muscle.
5. What are some non-addictive medications I can use for pain?
It’s a myth that only strong, opioid, pain medications are effective in pain management. In reality, several non-addictive medications can successfully help reduce pain.
There are six types of non-addictive medications commonly recommended by pain management physicians, though your doctor may recommend others.
Topical Creams and Patches
The application of a drug directly to a painful area can often provide quick and effective results. This is the reason why creams and patches containing lidocaine are often the first-line defense against pain.
Diclofenac gel, often marketed under the brand name Voltaren, is another potent topical gel used to treat arthritis pain. It is prescription-strength but is readily available over the counter.
Most people are familiar with these over-the-counter pain medicines, so you probably have them in your medicine cabinet already. ASAIDs are non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs used for pain relief, fever reduction, and reductions of inflammation.
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium are all common over-the-counter NSAIDs. If these aren’t effective, there are some prescription strength NSAIDs that your doctor can prescribe.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Your doctor can use calcium channel blockers to treat certain types of neuropathy or nerve pain. Gabapentin and pregabalin are the most commonly used calcium channel blockers for neuropathy pain. Doctors use these drugs to treat certain kinds of heart disease but they’ve also proven to be effective at helping treat nerve pain in many people.
Sodium Channel Blockers
Another type of medication used to treat neuropathy pain is the sodium channel blocker. These drugs include topiramate (Topamax) and oxcarbazepine (Trileptal).
Antidepressants: Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI) and Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCA)
Antidepressants not only address the depression that is common to chronic pain patients, but they may also help alleviate the physical pain, too. Tricyclic antidepressants treat chronic pain. These include amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
SNRIs are also used to treat pain, including fibromyalgia pain. These antidepressants tend to have less severe side effects than TCAs, though your doctor will likely start you on a low dose of either type and build it up slowly to avoid adverse side effects.
Some common SNRIs used for pain management include duloxetine, cymbalta, and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).
Muscle relaxers can help reduce pain by blocking the pain signals that tell the muscles to contract or spasm. Breaking the cycle of pain-spasm-more pain can help your injuries to heal more efficiently. This type of treatment can be a good option for those with back pain that is muscular.
Some common muscle relaxers for pain management include cyclobenzaprine and tizanidine.
Don’t let anxiety or doubt stop you from getting the best pain management treatment possible. The answers you get to these five questions will open the door to better discussions with your pain management doctor and set you on the path for getting you the help you need.
Let us help you find relief.
Find out if Southern Coast Spine and Pain Specialists can help you find relief from your chronic pain. Contact us today to learn more about our unique approach to your pain management needs.