The field of pain management typically deals with traditional methods for evaluating, diagnosing, and treating various types of acute and chronic pain. However, as more research develops and the field of medicine progresses, physicians are able to learn about the complex intricacies of pain. This has led to a sub-specialty called interventional pain management.
What is Interventional Pain Management?
Conventional pain management treatments such as prescription medications, physical therapy, and other non-invasive techniques help reduce pain. What interventional pain management does differently is that it uses injections and radiofrequency to directly address and treat the root cause of your pain.
Understanding a patient’s pain, the physiology of pain, and available treatments allows pain management specialists to create a multidisciplinary approach that utilizes a variety of techniques best suited to your pain and lifestyle. Interventional pain management has broadened the scope of technology and treatments that are available, effective, and ultimately able to restore your quality of life.
Types of Interventional Pain Management
Injections like nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, facet joint injections, neuromodulation, and other interventional techniques are used to treat chronic pain disorders with greater accuracy and precision.
Physicians oftentimes will use fluoroscopy to perform the injection. This is a type of X-ray guidance that allows your physician to see exactly where the injection is being placed in the joint to address the source of pain.
A nerve block is an injection that is directed towards a specific nerve or group of nerve to treat pain. The injection, an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory medication, blocks the pain signal traveling from that location to your brain, quite literally “turning off” the pain you feel. The block decreases inflammation in the affected area.
Epidural Steroid Injection
Epidural steroid injections are another type of nerve block, but they are injected into the epidural space of the spine. The medication calms the nerve, reducing the painful sensations you feel. Epidural steroid injections are used to treat patients with pain caused by a compressed spinal nerve root, sciatica, and even osteoarthritis.
Facet Joint Injections
Facet joints connect the bones of the spine together, allowing for motion and movement. Inflammation causes pain, and facet joint injections can be used to reduce that pain. These injections are placed alongside the joint, and usually involve a concoction of both a steroid and numbing agent. Patients who have not had success with conventional treatments and suffer from neck, arm, low back, or leg pain that is caused by inflammation of the facet joints is a candidate for this procedure.
Radiofrequency ablation reduces pain by preventing transmission of pain signals. Radiofrequency utilizes electrical currents to essentially burn small piece of nerve tissue, creating a long-lasting interruption of pain signals to the brain. This is a non-surgical option to reduce chronic pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a type of neuromodulation that helps treat pain that affects the central, peripheral, or autonomic nervous systems by providing electrical stimulation via implanted devices. A small device, similar to that of a pacemaker, is implanted in the back along the spine. The generator transmits low-voltage electrical currents to the spinal cord instead of pain signals. Patients may feel a slight tingling sensation instead of their pain.
Living with chronic pain is not normal, and patients should know that technology is quickly evolving to provide physicians with the most effective and state-of-the-art treatment options for battling chronic pain.