Between 50-100 million Americans live with chronic pain every day. Chronic pain represents more than all the diabetics and asthmatics in the United States of America. Take a second to let that sink in. Fifty million people are all the people who live in California, Arizona, and New Mexico combined, with a million people to spare. Unfortunately, the majority of cases of chronic pain are either untreated or undertreated. Likely you or someone close to you lives with chronic pain.
September is Pain Awareness Month. There has been rapid growth within the field of Pain Management in the last five years. Medical advancements have made it a fascinating and exhilarating time to treat patients with chronic pain, with new research being done every day. There has been the development of multiple minimally invasive procedures to treat chronic pain in the field of Pain Management. Our society has been backing away from the heavy use of opioid analgesics as pain relievers. The drawback is that rapid change can make it hard to keep up.
On the Internet, you will see many procedures, equipment, practices, and services focused on patients suffering from chronic pain. So what treatments work, and what are just shiny new toys? There are a handful of tried and true ways—first, discuss what you find with your doctor. Physicians follow the evidence of scientific studies. We also track our outcomes for various treatments and procedures to confirm that the evidence we read about is what we experience in real life. Physicians are scientists at their core, but these practice adjustments are the art of medicine.
Traditionally, pain medicine specialists' treatments were palliative. Treatments focused solely on masking pain to improve a patient's quality of life and function without improving the underlying pathology. However, the field is moving toward interventions that attempt to fix structural pathology.
As we refine these new treatments, it will be interesting to see where the field of Pain Medicine moves in the next 10-20 years. Many surgeries could potentially be avoided with minimally invasive interventional pain management procedures. These procedures can often be done with x-ray or ultrasound guidance with little to no incision. We are not as far away from Star Trek as previously thought.
Chronic pain does not occur in isolation and affects millions of Americans. When one area of the body starts to hurt, others often follow. Pain can be cruel. Being in pain for months to years is not normal. Chronic pain does not serve a biological purpose. It is dysfunctional by its very nature.
A multidisciplinary and holistic approach is needed to help patients with chronic pain. Ultimately, as physicians, we help patients and their families make informed choices. We listen, and we advise. Chronic pain is no exception. So, in the spirit of pain awareness month, know that you and the people you love deserve to live without chronic pain.
At HealthyU Clinics, we're here for U. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 602-491-0703 or schedule online here.
By: Alexander Dydyk, DO
Director of Pain Medicine