Pain Care: The Benefits of Pain Management

Pain Care BenefitsPain is a complex problem with physical and emotional components. It can affect all aspects of a person’s life. When pain is treated early and aggressively, often it can be cured. Sometimes the injury that has caused the pain cannot be completely reversed and the damage needs to be managed on a long-term basis. Medically, we are always looking to find a diagnosis and treatment for every problem. Pain Care is aimed at finding the individualized, comprehensive diagnosis and management plan for a patient’s symptoms and problems.

Pain Care

Pain Care has been developed to take the next step in managing a patient’s symptoms. A new patient will undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a Board Certified specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with a subspecialty in Pain Care. These physicians are medical doctors with extensive special training in the musculoskeletal, medical and neurologic systems, which allows them to better diagnose and treat almost any painful condition.  As Physical Medicine doctors, they are the “Family “ physicians coordinating and delivering care to those with pain.

Since pain often is a complex problem, Pain Care is designed to help the patient move forward with management. Every patient is unique with their own set of important problems. If all the answers were obvious, there would be no need for our services. Unfortunately, pain is the most common problem bringing a patient to the doctor’s office. When it does not resolve in short period of time, consulting a specialist is often extremely beneficial. There is not one solution, one medication, one shot, or one specific intervention that is right for every patient. Pain Care is designed to integrate and coordinate our skills into the community to treat these challenging patients with their current care team.

Pain management is not a new medical field, however there are not many providers with the Physical Medicine and Pain specialty skills. Pain is complex and Pain Care is designed to address these issues and bring a solution to the patient and community.

Marathon Running Pain and the Weekend Warrior

running painThe marathoner and all of us have something in common; when we do activities to the extreme, we all have pain. Running a marathon is a grueling event and it stresses the entire body. The whole body often is sore afterwards, both physically and mentally. The best trained athletes are even sore after this event. The weekend athlete and the rest of us often suffer from similar pain when we do too much of an activity that we are not used to performing.

A marathon runner will have pain after a run for a number of reasons. Most will have muscle soreness in the legs from build up of lactose and from some muscle strain. Ice, heat, fluids, and over-the counter medications will take care of symptoms. Joint pain may also be present for the repetitive bounding of pavement.  Again, this pain should disappear in several days as the body heals itself. In general, all pain should resolve within days.  If there is an isolated area of pain, sometimes a more severe injury has occurred and further medical evaluation and treatment may be necessary.

The weekend warriors suffer from similar issues. Spring yard work is the classic example of people stressing out the body. We rake the yard for hours, lift bags of dirt, move heavy rocks, and kneel in the garden. Then we exercise for several hours and wonder why we hurt the next day. The simple answer is we strained muscles and irritated joints that were not prepared to do that level of activity. The treatment is the same as it is for marathoners; short term rest, ice, heat, fluids, and if necessary, over-the-counter medications for several days. Rarely, do we strain or injure something bad enough to need medical attention.

Preventing Injuries

Preventing injury is the most important concept to remember whether you are a marathoner or weekend warrior. The marathoner needs to train for long distances, gradually increasing time and distant travelled. The weekend warrior needs to learn to pace themselves with activities. Do not try to get everything done in one short amount of time. Split up the tasks that need to be done. As one would say, stop and smell the roses. Take your time and you will not hurt yourself.

The long winter is over and we all want to get out and get active. Take it one step at a time. Try to remember to pace yourself through all those tasks that need to get done. It will all get done, just take your time and enjoy the journey. Have some fun, and there will be a lot less pain and you will still get to the end of the line.

Diabetic Neuropathy: Types, Causes, & Pain Management Options

diabetesDiabetes can cause multiple problems in the body.  High blood sugars can cause damage to nerves.  Diabetic neuropathy occurs in up to 70% of diabetics, and is painful in up to 30%. There are four common types of diabetic neuropathy: 

  1. Peripheral polyneuropathy
  2. Autonomic neuropathy
  3. Amyotrophy mimicking a radiculopathy
  4. Mononeuropathy

The small sensory pain fibers are the most commonly affected, causing pain in the feet and slowly progressing to the legs and often developing in the hands.  Loss of sensation in the legs can lead to open wounds, infections, amputations, and sometimes even death.

Causes of Diabetic Neuropathy

The causes of diabetic neuropathies are all thought to start with high blood sugars.  This is known to cause damage directly to the nerve, the insulation covering the nerves, and the blood vessels that provide nutrition.  There is also thought to be an auto-immune factor that diabetes provokes our immune system to fight the body itself like a foreign organism and cause damage.  Smoking and alcohol can also increase the likeliness of damage.  Lastly, diabetes makes the nerves more sensitive to damage, thus injury can cause significant increase in overall damage to nerves.

Peripheral Polyneuropathy

Peripheral polyneuropathy is the most common type of damage seen in diabetes.  It is noticed first affecting sensory nerves, but motor nerves can be equally damaged.  People often first notice numbness in the feet and toes, and changes in temperature.  Tingling, and burning is common, as well as pain and sensitivity even to the lightest of touches.   Motor changes include weakness in the feet and legs and difficulty with walking and balance.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy is the next most common diabetic neuropathy.  The nerves that control the heart, bladder, stomach and intestines, sex organs, and eyes are from the autonomic nervous system.  Loss of control of the bladder may be from damage to these nerves.  In males, erectile dysfunction is a common issue.  Stomach problems include slow emptying, constipation, and sometimes diarrhea.  Heart problems include fluctuating blood pressures and heart rates.

Prevention & Treatment Options

Once diabetic neuropathies occur, they are often hard to manage and control, since the nerve damage is often permanent.  Good blood sugar control is the most important aspect in reducing the incidence and severity.  Painful neuropathies are best treated with neuropathic medications such as:

  • Gabapentin
  • Lyrica
  • Cymbalta

Narcotic/opioid medications are often only minimally helpful at best.  In the worst cases, implantable pain control devices such as spinal cord stimulation and intrathecal pain pumps are useful.  When pain is an ongoing problem, enlisting the help of an experience pain physician can be a lifesaver in symptom management.

Managing Foot and Ankle Pain After Surgery

foot pain after surgeryFoot and ankle surgery is common for deformities such as fractures and sprains. Pain is an unavoidable part of surgery recovery. That being said, there are methods you can use to manage the pain. Understanding the significance of the pain, the cause, and the severity is the key to correct management.

Injuries to the ankle and foot, as well as any resulting surgery, causes acute pain that can be directly correlated to the damaged structured.  After surgery, pain is related to damage and inflammation of tissues.  As structures heal, the pain will resolve quickly.

Pain from Foot & Ankle Surgery

Surgery for the foot and ankle is similar to an injury – it causes damage to tissue but it is done to correct an abnormality in order to reduce problems in the future.  Pain related to surgery is from the incisions and tissue manipulation, which stimulates the sensory nerves and inflammation.  Post surgery, treating pain with anti-inflammatory medications along with analgesics is often necessary.

Pain is normal, but should be easy to control and will dissipate as healing progresses.  Icing for the first 2 days after surgery and keeping the foot elevated keeps the inflammation, swelling, and pain under control.  The most important thing to do post-surgery is to follow the doctor recommended activity restrictions. This will improve your recovery speed.

Hypersensitivity and CRPS

Damage to the foot and ankle in about 5% of cases can cause severe, abnormal pain with hypersensitivity.  When this occurs, special pain management is necessary.  Sympathetic hypersensitivity, know as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS – “crips”) causes severe extremity pain and despite normal treatment, it still hurts.

This condition requires a high level of intervention with medications, special therapy, and nerve blocks before and after any surgery and recovery requires the skills of an experienced team of an orthopedic surgeon and a pain management specialist. Many physicians “give up” when they see these issues with ankle and foot injuries, but when treated aggressively and correctly, these injuries can be significantly corrected.  Having the best team to treat foot and ankle issues reduces or eliminates long-term problems.