You struggle with severe, persistent lower back or neck pain that limits physical activities. It even makes it difficult to get out of a chair, or interferes with your sleep, or forces you to miss family gatherings and other events and is unrelieved by anything you or your primary care physician does. “When home remedies, over-the-counter creams and ointments and other conservative care have failed, it’s time to visit an interventional pain management specialist,” says Kaliq Chang, MD, of New Jersey-based Atlantic Spine Center, a leading center for endoscopic surgery and pain management.
Chronic lower back or neck pain is defined as pain that is ongoing for three or more months. “Unfortunately, sometimes patients resign themselves to live with the problem because they are unaware of the treatment options available," explains Dr. Chang, who is double board-certified in anesthesiology and pain management.Those options can range from the use of nerve block agents and epidural steroid injections to such procedures as radiofrequency ablation and rhizotomy to temporarily shut down nerves that communicate pain, and neurostimulation, including stimulation of the spine. All of these are performed by an interventional pain management specialist who works closely with a patient’s primary care physician, physical therapist and other professionals involved in the patient’s care, Dr. Chang says. The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports that more than 100 million people in the United States experience chronic pain – fivefold the number of patients with heart disease.
Because the back is a complicated structure of tendons, muscles, overlapping ligaments holding spinal vertebrae in place, and an array of nerves emanating from the spinal column, it is a leading source of chronic pain. Dr. Chang adds. “Anything that affects how all these parts work together – strains, muscle and tendon pulls, spinal disc failure, nerve compression, injuries to bone or soft tissues – can result in ongoing pain that may require evaluation by an interventional pain management specialist.” More than any other specialist, interventional pain management physicians are uniquely positioned to understand the physiology and complexities of back and neck pain and its treatment, Dr. Chang says. “We have a wide array of tools and approaches to alleviate pain.” His advice to patients: Talk to your primary care physician about referral to a pain management specialist if:
- Pain persists for several months or more.
- All self-treatment techniques and conservative measures, including application of heat and ice and use of over-the-counter products, have been ineffective.
- Your primary care physician and other care professionals, such as physical therapists, have been unable to bring relief through prescription medications, exercises or other techniques or have failed to diagnose the pain’s source.
- Ongoing pain has severely impacted quality of life.
“You don’t have to live with back or neck pain. Most chronic pain can be effectively treated through conservative management and, if necessary, minimally-invasive outpatient procedures,” Dr. Chang says.
Learn about some of the many pain management options offered at Atlantic Spine Center: http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com/treatments/back-pain-management/