Pain management is a growing medical specialty. Due to the prevalence of arthritis, joint problems, wounds, and other serious conditions, patients turn to pain specialists to provide important relief. Dr. J. Fred Stoner, the director of the Lawrence County Medical Society, examines current trends in the pain management specialty.
The Lawrence County Medical Society will soon be holding a PALS (Pain, Addiction, and Law Symposium) conference for their local area in Pennsylvania. Bringing dozens of different specialists together, the symposium promises to be an aid in networking and in sharing the best new techniques in pain management.
Basics of Pain Management
First, the doctor and patient must determine whether the pain in question is acute or chronic. Acute pain follows an accident or injury and is usually felt as a sharp pain. Injuries like lacerations, burns, and broken bones fall under the category of acute pain. Pain from surgery or giving birth are also regarded as acute pain.
Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting longer than 6 months. Even though the injury causing the pain has healed, the pain persists. Some common types of chronic pain include neuropathy or nerve damage, arthritis pain, cancer pain, low back pain, fibromyalgia, and headaches. Chronic pain can cause muscle tension, a decrease in energy levels, and problems with mobility. Many people also feel anxious and depressed about their pain, causing another level of pain-related medical problems.
Alternative Methods of Pain Management
Pain management begins with non-drug therapies. It is important that patients continue moving and getting exercise. The movement will decrease stiffness and strengthen the muscles. Exercises should be adapted to avoid conflicting with chronic pain areas.
Massage therapy is another good way to manage pain without the use of drugs. Other types of non-drug therapies include physical and occupational therapy and acupuncture. When patients keep up with these non-drug therapies, they are less likely to need powerful pain medications, and the easiest way to prevent addiction to pain meds is to avoid them entirely.
Pain Control Devices
One area where significant strides are being made in pain management is the use of medical devices. Ultrasound and TENS are two popular methods. Ultrasound uses concentrated sound waves to block the pain. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) devices send pulses of stimulating electricity through the nerves and the surface of the skin. Some patients also find relief with the use of implanted devices that stimulate the spinal cord and block pain.
Stem Cell Treatments
One of the most exciting developments in pain management is the use of plasma and stem cells. Doctors extract plasma or stem cells from the patient’s own body and inject them into the areas affected by pain. This is a non-invasive treatment which may appeal to patients who do not want to have surgery or who are not candidates for invasive procedures. This method of pain management can also cut down on the amount of medication that is needed to manage the condition.
As the pain management protocol shifts away from opioid drugs, different medications are being used. Doctors and patients are turning back to NSAIDs and other non-narcotic pain medications. Antidepressants are also being used in some cases. Opioids and other narcotics like morphine and methadone are also used in lesser numbers.
The current trend to reduce the use of opioid drugs means that fewer patients will be tempted to overuse and abuse these medications. It will also cut down on the black market for these pills, causing less drug-related crime in the community.
Taking Care of the Whole Patient
In pain management, holistic care is an integral part of the patient. It is becoming more widespread. Combining complementary therapies like massage, acupuncture, and psychological counseling with devices like TENS and pain medications provides patients with pain relief on many different fronts. Patients manage to live more comfortably, providing an improved quality of life.
Dr. J. Fred Stoner and other pain specialists offer their patients advanced services. The Lawrence County Medical Society has a deep interest in all medical trends, including those in pain management. The Society helps local doctors improve their skills and provides important networking capabilities within the medical community.