Chronic pain impacts quality of life significantly. From daily activities to limited ability for work and leisure, the presence of pain can be debilitating and lead to both physical and mental problems. Patients suffer from everything from chronic headaches, back pain, pain from injuries or accidents and post-surgical pain. As a result, millions of Americans turn to opioids to manage their pain. While physician-prescribed opioids are appropriate in some cases, in other cases the reliance on these drugs have created one of the worst drug crises in the history of America.
According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2018, almost 450,000 people died from an overdose involving opioids. Opioid overdoses led to an increased rate of Emergency Department visits of 99.4% and everyday, more than a thousand patients are treated for misusing prescription opioids. Therefore, physicians are put in the situation between acknowledging the risks of an opioid treatment plan while also needing to treat chronic pain.
Luckily, there are many non-opioid treatments available for pain. Standard protocol includes over-the-counter medications, such as Advil or Tylenol, to manage pain flare-ups. However, beyond traditional pain management new interventional and regenerative pain management options have surfaced in response to the opioid crisis. These methods utilize pain blocking techniques such as electrostimulation, nerve blocks or implantable drug delivery systems.
Radiofrequency ablation - This method involves inserting a needle next to any pain-causing nerve and burning that nerve using an electric current created by radio waves. This effectively stops the pain signal.
Nerve blocks – Using X-ray imaging, physicians are able to inject numbing pain medication into an area in order to block or diminish pain. The location of the injection depends on the type and source of the pain.
Spinal cord stimulation – SCS uses a device similar to a pace-maker that replaces pain with a tingling sensation. The device is implanted in the lower back, attached to small wires located in the spinal canal. When patients feel pain, they use a remote control to send signals to the area.
Pain pumps – These special types of pumps are implanted in a patient similar to the SCS. The pumps allow a patient to deliver pain medications directly to their spinal cord with the push of a button.
Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapy - Using a patient’s own cells and injecting them back into a specific area, such as the lower back, the stem cells promote growth of new, healthy tissue which can actually relieve pain for good.
Steroid injections are a common tool and target pain points in the body which results in a reduction of inflammation. Examples include trigger joint, facet joint, and epidural injections.