Relief from Lingering Pain
Nearly 50 million people in the United States and millions more around the world live with chronic pain with causes from cancer to diabetes to neurological illness to an injury to arthritis. Sometimes pain is constant, all day every day. Sometimes it is intermittent, comes and goes. Either way, pain can cause physical agony and disrupt lives.
In the 1990s, physicians began prescribing opioids such as oxycodone to relieve pain. It was an ideal solution for short-term management of acute pain. However, by 2017 an estimated 1.7 million Americans abused legal and illegal substances, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. One hundred thirty people die every day from prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin.
Researchers realized the urgency to find significant alternatives to opioids for pain relief. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts more than three months. When pain that lasts long after the underlying original cause such as an injury has been successfully treated, pain “becomes the disease.”
Neurons respond to external stimuli such as a joint fracture. Electrical signals are transmitted to the spinal cord, which sends pain signals to the brain, creating an emotional response. The body’s neurochemicals, endorphins and other natural opioids, intercept the descending pain signals from the brain back to the spinal cord in order to moderate and blunt the pain.
A malfunctioning nervous system may send pain signals when there is no longer a cause for the pain. A trial at the Cleveland Clinic led by Andre Machado, a neurosurgeon, used deep brain stimulation on patients suffering with chronic pain. The findings suggest that the brains of chronic pain patients are conditioned by constant exposure to pain to react to all stimulus as potentially painful.
Researchers are trying to alter pain perception and harness the body’s ability to soothe its own pain. They found that emotional health dominated by fear, anxiety, and sadness can worsen pain. Experiments with virtual reality and calming music have a positive effect on pain tolerance. The theory is that the entertainment helps to relax the patient, reduce anxiety and produce a soothing effect. Yoga and physical therapy are also effective approaches to reduce chronic joint and back pain, according to a study by the Boston Medical Center published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Every Direct Orthopedic Care clinic has physical therapy and a knowledgeable therapist to customize a program based on each guest’s injury or condition and pain level.
Neurostimulators are another approach to pain that can replace reliance on opioids and provide relief from chronic pain. The therapy involves surgical implantation of a spinal cord stimulator that delivers mild electrical pulses to nerve fibers and interrupts the pain signal transmission to the brain. Dr. Brannon Frank at DOC Austin and Dr. Arthur Conley and Dr. J.T. McLaughlin at DOC Oklahoma City are pain management physicians who are experienced in the latest techniques to relieve pain.
A recent guest who was in so much pain that she could not walk, describes her lifestyle transformation after Dr. Frank and his orthopedic team implanted a spinal stimulator:“I was homebound. The spinal stimulator changed my life. I am 95% pain-free. Now I am going, going, going. The spinal stimulator is versatile. If the pain moves from my lower back to the bottom of my feet, the remote control is programmed so I can adjust it for immediate relief where it hurts.”
Research on chronic pain is ongoing and urgent. Alternative therapies are viable options for pain relief. Make an appointment with the DOC pain management physician to discuss the causes of your pain and the best treatments for relief, which may include physical therapy.
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