Four of five adults experience significant back or neck pain during their lives. In fact, back pain is the fifth leading cause of visits to Doctors in the U.S. But with the right care, about 90% of back pain patients improve within four to six weeks.
What is Pain?
It is the brain, not the point of injury, that registers the sensation of pain. When you feel pain, it is really a reaction to signals that are transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source, through the nerves in the spinal cord, to your brain, where you perceive them as pain.
This is important because it means that pain can be controlled by preventing the pain signals from reaching the brain. If the pain signals never reach the brain, you don’t feel the pain.
For years, medical researchers found it impractical to study the causes of chronic pain. There are many factors that affect the development of chronic pain such as age, level of disability, depression, or the presence of nerve damage. The only way to examine these factors seemed to be to study enormous populations in order to track the few people who would develop chronic pain, a daunting task. But then, a new idea developed–how about studying groups of patients with acute pain who are at risk of developing chronic pain? The idea spread and a number of exciting new studies were conducted.
Some of the groups studied have included those patients with acute herpes zoster (shingles), patients with acute bouts of low back pain patients who have just undergone amputations (including mastectomies), patients with chest wall incisions (thoracotomies), as well as hernia repairs. The research is new and the results are not yet conclusive, but there are definite themes that run through the results of this literature.
What is Chronic Pain?
Acute pain (such as spraining your ankle) acts as a warning to signal harm or possible damage to tissues in your body. It prevents additional damage by alerting you to react and remove the source of pain. However, when pain lasts a long time (over six months) and is not relieved by standard medical management, it is called “chronic” pain. In chronic pain, the pain signal no longer helps, but hinders your body.
Chronic pain may result from a previous injury long since healed. Or it may have an ongoing cause, such as arthritis, cancer, nerve damage, or chronic infection. With chronic pain, normal lifestyles can be restricted or even impossible.
Many people suffer with chronic pain, unaware that there are a variety of treatment options that can help them live more normal lives.
If you have chronic pain, you should seek out information about these various treatment options. Because there are many new ways to treat pain, it is important that you speak openly with your doctor or with a doctor who specializes in treating chronic pain — a pain specialist.
How Common is Chronic Pain?
Pain is recognized as a major public health problem. In the United States, it is estimated that chronic pain affects 15%to 33%of the U.S. population, or as many as 70 million people. In fact, chronic pain disables more people than cancer or heart disease and costs the American people more than both combined. Pain costs an estimated $70 billion a year in medical costs, lost working days, and workers’ compensation.
More Acute Pain = More Future Chronic Pain
The most important result so far is that the more intense and prolonged an acute pain episode is, the more likely it will lead to chronic pain. This makes sense given the information that we are beginning to learn about how the central nervous system changes in response to intense pain. As a result of intense pain, neurons in the spinal cord that help to prevent pain transmissions actually die. At the same time, pain transmitting neurons grow more connections to other nerves, become more sensitive, and react more strongly to a painful stimulus.
This remolding of nerve physiology and micro-anatomy is called neuroplasticity. The study of neuroplasticity is one of the hottest new areas in neuroscience since in seems to be the basis for the processes of learning and memory. It appears, however, that the nervous system doesn’t only learn useful information, but also “learns” or remembers pain, leading to the development of chronic pain.
This new data suggests that we have been given a wonderful new opportunity to easily prevent much chronic pain from ever occurring.
Understanding Neuropathic Pain / Pain Management: Patients Have Options
Integrated pain management is a new approach to treating acute and chronic back and neck pain. The advantages to these programs include the centralization of medical care and less duplication of services from different medical disciplines.
Millions of people struggle daily with some degree and type of pain. Caused by illness, deformity, accident, and so on, pain can be completely life-changing. As this problem has grown to significant heights, new pain clinics have been established to provide some type of treatment, giving these people their life back. The types of pain management in Atlanta are also found in other parts of the country, many revolutionizing the way in which medical care if provided.
We wanted to provide you with some of the primary types of pain management that you would expect to see. Of course, professional doctors would choose the treatment according to the person’s needs but with new technology, medication, and procedures, pain can become a thing of the past. The following are some options for pain management in Atlanta that have turned life around for many.
- Acupuncture – This form of pain management in Atlanta has a long history coming out of China. This procedure involves very small needles being placed on the body at specific points that help to block out pain signals. Of course, a professional acupuncturist would perform the procedure and while an ancient type of pain treatment, it continues to provide relief in the 21st century.
- Electrical Stimulation – Using a TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, small signals are sent to various nerve fibers to help reduce pain. In most cases, TENS works exceptionally well.
- Injections – There are a number of different medications that are used via injection to help reduce, eliminate, and control pain. For instance, to help stop painful irritation or muscle spasms, a doctor might use some kind of local anesthetic with or without cortisone.
- Nerve Blocks – This type of pain management also comes in a variety of forms. For instance, a Ganglion nerve block is used to help with pain. In this case, a fluoroscope is often used, guiding the needing to the exact irritated nerve in which medication is administered. Once the nerve is numb, the pain ceases. Depending on the type of nerve pain, some patients will get only temporary relief while others get permanent. Additionally, in some cases, a single nerve block works whereas other, more difficult cases could require three, four, or five blocks.
- Physical Therapy – This particular type of pain management has been used for a long time, helping to strengthen muscles, provide better flexibility, and reduce pain. Physical therapy can involve all types of treatments such as aquatics, biking, steps, and so on. Medical professionals would design the type of physical therapy needed on a patient-by-patient basis.
- Psychological Therapy – Interesting, often pain management will not only address the body, but also the mind. After all, people who live with chronic pain often deal with frustration, anxiety, and even depression. In this case, the professional would be able to provide guidance from a psychological and cognitive viewpoint, giving the patient different outlets for dealing with the mental aspect of pain.
- Surgery – In more advanced or complex cases, surgery might be required. Some of the types of surgery that might be recommended include a surgically implanted medicine pump, a dorsal column stimulator, etc. In most cases, one the patient heals, he or she gains a higher level of normalcy.
In summary, there are so many different\ types of pain management, which is why working closely with a reputable doctor, someone who actually focuses on pain relief, is your best bet. These professionals are not only highly skilled and trained they are also dedicated to making people’s lives the best they can be. No person wants to wake up and go to bed every day in pain. With so many options for pain management in Metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas, there is no reason this has to be the case.
Contact Georgia Spinal Health & Wellness today to schedule a consultation for you or a member of your family.