Monday Medical: Injection therapy provides relief for patients with chronic pain
Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series on managing and treating chronic pain. Part one focused on understanding chronic pain. Part three will look at how complementary therapies such as acupuncture, physical therapy and massage therapy can also help.
Injection therapy targets “trigger points” in the body and helps relax muscles and reduce inflammation in nerves and joints for patients suffering from chronic pain.
Through these targeted injections, health care professionals can relieve pain in the back, neck, arms and legs for sometimes months at a time.
“The injections target the pain at its source,” said Dr. Amanda Wallace, medical director at UCHealth Pain Management Clinic in Steamboat Springs. “And while it doesn’t undo the damage or turn back the clock on an injury, it dials down the chronic pain signal.”
Wallace stresses the importance of treating chronic pain with a multimodal approach that includes using targeted injections along with other therapeutic remedies such as physical therapy, behavioral health, nutrition, massage therapies and acupuncture. This line of attack to treat chronic pain maximizes the chance for a successful outcome for patients, she said, since it treats patients in a more holistic manner.
“Most people haven’t undergone multimodal treatment, and we’re really trying to come at it with a team approach,” said Wallace. “There is not one magic bullet. Rather, attacking pain from all angles is going to benefit the patient and our ability to treat their pain.”
Chronic pain is typically defined as unresolved pain lasting for more than three months despite medication and treatment. if you are suffering from pain, a good first step is to see a primary care physician to rule out reversible causes. A treatment plan can then be developed that includes appropriate referrals, if needed, and pain management techniques.
What happens during injection therapy
According to Wallace, an “overwhelming majority of people would be a candidate” for injections.
Most injections utilize a local anesthetic or numbing agent combined with a steroid targeting a joint, muscle or nerve. Wallace uses an X-ray or ultrasound to guide the injections. It’s an outpatient procedure and does not impede a person’s ability to drive home or resume their normal daily activities.
Types of pain helped by injection therapy
Relief from the injections can last for weeks or months, depending upon the medical issue, with some lasting up to one year. Injections can be used to treat:
- Lower extremity peripheral neuropathy, which is often seen in diabetes.
- Spine pain.
- Fibromyalgia and myofascial pain.
- Joint pain.
“It’s very common to fear shots, but I’ve never had anyone stop once they’ve begun,” Wallace said. “The anticipation is often much worse than what transpires. Typically, after one visit, patients realize how easy it is and how much it helps. It’s very easy to tolerate a few seconds of a poke when it allows patients to get their lives back.”
Mary Gay Broderick writes for UCHealth. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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