Chronic pain can take many different forms. The people who visit our Consultants for pain management may be struggling with:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Leg pain (including sciatica) – may affect just one leg or both
- Facial pain
- Nerve pain - this can include post-operative pain, phantom pain and pain after shingles
Long-term pain can be exhausting to live with. Interrupted sleep, inability to exercise (or even be reasonably active) and the effects of trying to cope with pain over an extended period of time takes a toll physically, emotionally and mentally. It can easily lead to depression, frustration and anger and close relationships can be significantly affected. While loved ones often try to support you, it can be very hard for them to truly understand and appreciate the reality of what you are going through and the effect it has on you.
A Consultant in Pain Medicine has a number of treatment options available that may help to relieve your pain symptoms. These can be split into two categories – medication and interventional procedures.
Pain management – medication
There are some extremely good pain relief medications available. The challenge comes in knowing which one(s) will be most effective for your specific pain, and the optimal dose to use. This is where the value of an expert in pain management is most often felt, as they have an extremely good insight into the different combinations and dosages available for a variety of conditions and types of pain.
Different pain medicines help with different types and causes of pain. For example, pain from inflammation may be best treated with an anti-inflammatory drug or a combination of paracetamol and an opioid (a strong painkiller that has a similar effect to morphine), whereas pain caused by a nerve issue will most likely need a different type of medication that desensitizes the affected nerve.
Pain management – interventional procedures
Interventional procedures available at The Droitwich Spa Hospital include:
- Nerve blocks
- Nerve root blocks
- Facet joint injections
Nerves acts as the body’s messenger system, transmitting signals (electrical impulses) around it, from one part to another. A nerve block deliberately interrupts a signal in specific nerves to try to help relieve pain.
A nerve root block involves injecting an anaesthetic (and usually steroid as well) directly into the place the the nerve leaves the spinal cord (known as the nerve root). The anaesthetic numbs the pain while the steroid acts to reduce any inflammation and swelling. This type of injection is usually targeted at one particular nerve and X-ray guidance is used to ensure precision.
Facet joints are small joints in the spine that join the vertebrae (bones of the back) together. A facet joint injection involves injecting an anaesthetic (and again, usually a steroid as well) into a facet joint.
These injections may diagnostic, to help confirm the cause of your pain or therapeutic. Pain management is an incredibly specialised, complex area of medicine. Not all types and causes of pain can be successfully treated, but your Consultant will ensure you receive the best possible treatment for your specific condition to deliver the pain relief you need.
Because of the complexity of this area and its overlap with so many other areas of medicine, your Pain Management Consultant works closely with other experts like spinal and orthopaedic surgeons to ensure you receive the best possible treatment and support you need at all times, from the most relevant expert.