The spine is complex and contains many pain generators. Everyone experiences back or neck pain at one time or another. Most often, the pain is caused by overuse injuries. In most cases, the pain will resolve within a few days. You may only need to rest for a few days, modify your activity or take simple over-the counter pain medication. If the pain persists for more than 4-7 days, then a physician may need to be consulted.
If you are still not seeing significant improvement after taking medications or physical therapy, an interventional pain specialist should be consulted to assess your condition. Your clinician may order more advanced diagnostic tests, such as an MRI scan, to further evaluate your condition.
What is an interventional pain specialist?
It is becoming more important for physicians to have the expertise and knowledge to treat pain. A pain management specialist refers to a doctor who has received special training in the diagnosis, treatment, and evaluation of all types of pain, including:
- A deep understanding of the pain physiology
- Ability to assess patients suffering from complex pain conditions
- Understanding of the specialized tests used to diagnose painful conditions
- Proper prescribing of medication to treat varying levels of pain
- Highly skilled to perform procedures such as nerve blocks, spinal injections, and other interventional techniques
Additionally, the number of options available for pain treatment is increasing rapidly and getting more complicated. The pain management physician has unique training to utilize this knowledge to benefit his or her patients.
What is the role of an interventional pain specialist in your treatment?
Your doctor may refer you to an interventional pain medicine specialist if the pain persists after utilizing conservative treatments for approximately 2 weeks.
An interventional pain management specialist will typically conduct a thorough evaluation that includes:
- Review of your past
- A physical exam
- A neurological exam
- Careful review of all medical records.
There are many spinal procedures that can be used to treat and diagnose disorders. The first and most important step in treating unresolved and debilitating pain is to diagnose it.
Image guidance is used to diagnose the pain generator in the spine. If surgery is not required, they may be able to help the patient avoid it. Nerve blocks stop pain from arising from the facet joints, which are the tiny joints of the spine. A radiofrequency procedure might be recommended if these nerve blocks provide adequate pain relief. This will allow for long-term pain relief. Radiofrequency procedures can be very effective in relieving spinal pain for months or even years.
Many times, multiple pain generators are present in a patient. Diagnostic studies don’t correlate with the patient’s history or physical exam.
Who should consult an interventional pain management specialist for their condition?
These are patients who have tried all other treatments but aren’t considered suitable for spinal surgery. Others may still be experiencing pain after spinal surgery but are still suffering from it despite having had a relatively short recovery period. This could be due to scar tissue developing around the surgical site, partial nerve damage from prior problems being fixed, the development of new pain generators such a new mechanical, soft or muscle problem, recurrence or rare unsuccessful spinal surgery. If the pain is severe enough that the patient cannot perform home exercises or receive effective physical therapy, then interventional pain management may be considered. An interventional pain management procedure can be used to provide effective pain control. This is possible before you resume or start physical therapy and home exercises.
What are the roles of interventional pain medicine specialists?
An interventional pain medicine specialist may be able diagnose and treat your pain. They will also direct you to the best treatment options once they have determined the likely pain sources. The importance of an accurate diagnosis is what makes interventional pain management different than other pain management methods. This allows for treatment to begin quickly. An interventional pain management specialist uses all available treatment options to relieve pain. This includes prescribing medication and recommending physical therapy.
An interventional pain medicine specialist is also an important part of coordinating additional care like physical therapy, psychological therapy and rehabilitation programs to provide patients with a complete treatment plan that takes into account a multidisciplinary approach to their pain.