Pain can be debilitating both physically and emotionally for so many patients, yet so many don’t realize the options that are available. Many people live with chronic pain because none of the treatments they’ve tried have been effective, while others, on the other end of the spectrum become dependent on opioid medications, with their lives revolving around the next dose of opioid medications. While there is a role for opioid therapy, these are best suited for short term pain relief. Surgery can also play a role, but certainly not all patients are good surgical candidates. So what other options are there?
In treating pain, the most important question to answer is “What is the source of the pain?”. Understanding the answer to this question will help guide your treatment options. Certainly, if there is a clear mechanical problem that is amenable to surgery, this is an option, but many times, there is no clear cause we can point our finger at and say with certainty that “this is the cause”. This is where injection therapy can play a very important role. Injections can both help pinpoint the cause of the pain, and help reduce inflammation and pain stemming from that area.
Often, it is difficult to figure out where the pain is coming from because many conditions can present with similar symptoms. Injections can block pain coming from a specific area, helping the physician know whether that is the source of the pain. Surgeons will often utilize injections to help determine exactly at what level in the spine is the source of the pain, or whether the back pain is even coming from the nerve roots. Thus, injections can play a crucial role in helping to identify the exact source of pain in a minimally invasive manner.
Secondly, injections can help relieve the pain and get patients back to normal life. Many times, I emphasize to the patients that the body does have an amazing ability to heal itself, and an injection may be the boost the body needs to get the inflammation and pain down, and allow the patient to exercise and participate in physical therapy exercises which will speed up the body’s recovery.
Whatever the cause, you should seek out a fellowship trained, board certified pain specialist to help guide you through your options and discuss whether there are minimally invasive options to help avoid surgery, avoid opioids and get back to living life.