Chronic Pain Management

Pain Management

Physical Behavioral and Medical Pain Management - The primary focus of the Advantage Healthcare Systems program of care is on the needs of the injured worker. Work related injuries often involve a behavioral component that requires treatment. Programs of chronic pain management and lifestyle adjustment enable patients to return to work sooner, with less disability. It is well documented that ongoing, chronic pain results in significant psychological and behavioral dysfunction. Workers injured on the job who experience persistent pain require direct behavioral intervention. The impact of being out of work, losing one’s identity, and coping with the results of a physical injury can be devastating. With treatment, workers
can learn specific skills to cope with pain and to develop the skills necessary to adapt to their injuries. Treatment enables workers to develop the “emotional muscle” necessary to rehabilitationilitate and return to a productive life.

Many work related injuries have a direct psychological/behavioral component.

Workers who are involved in incidents that result in direct behavioral/emotional problems can be successfully treated. Advantage Healthcare Systems works together with the employee, the family, and often with the union or group to assist these workers in returning to their pre-accident level of functioning.

Cognitive-Behavioral treatments are used to help those injured. These treatments provide skills, and concrete behavioral techniques that can be used to regain behavioral and emotional functioning. Advantage Healthcare Systems is dedicated to providing the injured worker the most effective program of care. Helping an injured man or woman return to work, enabling them to maintain their dignity and sense of self-respect is one of our most important missions.

Introduction to chronic pain management

Chronic pain management can be simple or complex, depending on the cause of the pain. An example of pain that is typically less complex would be nerve root irritation from a herniated disc with pain radiating down the leg. This condition can often be alleviated with an epidural steroid injection and physical therapy. Sometimes, however, the pain does not go away. This can require a wide variety of skills and techniques to treat the pain. These skills and techniques include:

  • Interventional procedures
  • Medication management
  • Physical therapy or chiropractic therapy
  • Psychological counseling and support
  • Acupuncture and other alternative therapies; and
  • Referral to other medical specialists

All of these skills and services are necessary because pain can involve many aspects of a person’s daily life.

How is chronic pain treatment guided?

The treatment of pain is guided by the history of the pain, its intensity, duration, aggravating and relieving conditions, and structures involved in causing the pain. In order for a structure to cause pain, it must have a nerve supply, be susceptible to injury, and stimulation of the structure should cause pain. The concept behind most interventional procedures for treating pain is that there is a specific structure in the body with nerves of sensation that is generating the pain. Pain management has a role in identifying the precise source of the problem and isolating the optimal treatment.


Is an X-ray guided viewing method. Fluoroscopy is often used to assist the doctor in precisely locating the injection so that the medication reaches the appropriate spot and only the appropriate spot.

What are the basic types of pain?

There are many sources of pain. One way of dividing these sources of pain is to divide them into two groups, nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. How pain is treated depends in large part upon what type of pain it is.

Nociceptive pain

The body’s nervous system is working properly. There is a source of pain, such as a cut, a broken bone or a problem with the spine. The body’s system of telling the brain that there is an injury starts working. This information is passed on to the brain and one becomes aware that they are hurting.

Neuropathic pain

The body’s nervous system is not working properly. There is no obvious source of pain, but the body nonetheless tells the brain that injury is present.

What are types of neuropathic pain?

Neuropathic pain includes:

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy; Sympathetically maintained pain; Fibromyalgia; Interstitial cystitis; and Irritable bowel syndrome.

Treatment of neuropathic pain:

The various neuropathic pains can be difficult to treat. However, with careful diagnosis and often a combination of methods of treatments, there is an excellent chance of improving the pain and return of function.

Medications are a mainstay of treatment of neuropathic pain. In general, they work by influencing how pain information is handled by the body. Much pain information is filtered out by the central nervous system, usually at the level of the spinal cord, so that you never need to deal with that information. For example, if you are sitting in a chair, your peripheral nerves would correctly send the response to the pressure between your body and the chair to your nervous system. But, because that information serves no usual purpose, it is filtered out in the spinal cord. Many medications to treat neuropathic pain operate on this filtering process. Amongst the types of medications are antidepressants, influencing the amount of serotonin or norepinephrine and antiseizure medications, influencing the amount of various neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glycine.

One of the most powerful tools in treating neuropathic pain is the spinal cord stimulator, which delivers tiny amounts of electrical energy directly onto the spine. The effect of this stimulation of the spinal cord is to allow the spinal cord to function normally even during a painful condition. It works by interrupting inappropriate pain information being sent up to the brain.

What are other causes of pain?

Other causes of pain include:

Headaches, facial pain, peripheral nerve pain, coccydynia, compression fractures , post-herpetic neuralgia, myofasciitis, torticollis, piriformis syndrome, plantar fasciitis, lateral epicondylitis, and cancer pain. Headaches and facial pain, including atypical facial pain and trigeminal neuralgia. Headaches are a major source of discomfort and lost productivity in the workplace. Many effective treatments exist for persisting headaches, including medication, biofeedback, injections and implants, depending upon the precise type of headache. Botox also provides a useful means of effectively and safely treating headaches. Atypical facial pain can be debilitating. Often times it can be treated by injections into local nerve tissue (such as the sphenopalatine ganglion).

Trigeminal neuralgia, also called Tic Douloureux, is a condition that most commonly causes very intense intermittent shooting pain in the face.

Peripheral nerve pain:

Peripheral nerve pain, or neuropathy, can be debilitating. It can respond well to simple treatments such a trigger point injections with anesthetic medicines and cryoablation (an office based procedure which involves freezing the nerves). Examples of peripheral nerve pain include intercostal neuralgia, ilioinguinal neuroma, hypogastric neuroma, lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment, interdigital neuroma and related nerve entrapments.


Coccydynia is simply pain in the region on the tailbone, or coccyx. It can result from trauma or arise without apparent cause. The initial treatment is conservative, with oral pain relief medicines (analgesics). Oftentimes, the pain originates in the portion of the nervous system that we have no control of (involuntary or autonomic nervous system) and can respond to either a local anesthetic injection of the head of a nerve called Ganglion Impar, which is located by the coccyx or by medically destroying (ablating) the Ganglion Impar, usually using radiofrequency.

Compression fractures:

Compression fractures of the bony building blocks (vertebral bodies) are common in the elderly as a result of osteoporosis, or loss of calcium in the bone. With less calcium, the bone becomes weak and can break. Like any fracture, compression fractures hurt. Like any fracture, they are treated by stabilization, in this case, by injecting cement into the bone in a procedure known as a vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty is an effective way to treat the pain of compression fractures.

Post-herpetic neuralgia:

Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a painful condition occurring after a bout of shingles. When we are young, we are almost all exposed to chickenpox, caused by the Herpes Zoster virus. Our immune system controls the virus, but it lives in a dormant state in the spinal cord. When we age, or become ill or stressed, the virus can reactivate and attack the nerve infected and adjacent skin. However, in this second attack, the body usually recognizes the Herpes Zoster virus and contains the pain to a localized area, along the course of one nerve. A patient may have the characteristic blisters, which normally heal. Sometimes, however, the Herpes Zoster virus damages the nerve, causing ongoing nerve pain that persists after the skin blisters from the shingles have healed.

The ideal way to treat the post herpetic neuralgia is to treat it before it sets in. Medications, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), steroids and injections such as sympathetic injections can help prevent the onset of PHN. After the pain is present, injections, local anesthetics, medications [duloxetine (Cymbalta) , amitriptyline, (Elavil, Endep)] and pain medications or topical patches can be useful.

Myofasciitis and Torticollis:

Myofasciitis (pain in the muscles, whether in the neck or back) often responds to conservative physical therapy treatments (for example, massage and exercise). If the pain persists, trigger point injections can be used. If the trigger point injections provide temporary relief, sometimes Botox injections can help. Botox, which is botulinum toxin, can relax the muscles for six or more months, with long-term relief of pain. It provides a safe, effective treatment for what can otherwise be a difficult, ongoing problem. Torticollis is spasm of the muscles in the neck, forcing the sufferer to hold his or her neck tilted or rotated to the side. Botox is approved for treatment of this problem.

Piriformis Syndrome:

The Piriformis muscle goes from the hip to sacrum (tailbone). It is important in that the sciatic nerve passes through it. Piriformis syndrome is a spasm of the piriformis muscle. When the muscle goes into spasm, it can squeeze the sciatic nerve, causing pain going down the leg. Piriformis syndrome will usually respond to physical therapy. When pain persists, local anesthetic and/or steroid injection can help. If the pain persists, injecting Botox or Myobloc, which are both botulinum toxins, into the muscle can provide effective, safe treatment.

Plantar fasciitis and Lateral epicondylitis:

Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain) and Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow) are two common pain problems. Treatment starts with conservative options, such as rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, over-the counter pain medications, physical therapy and, for heel pain, shoe inserts. If the pain lasts for more than six months, Extracorporeal Shockwave Treatment is an effective, FDA approved treatment. Extracorporeal shockwave treatment is not recommended for pregnant women, children, anyone with a pacemaker, anyone on anti-coagulant therapy or anyone with a history of bleeding problems.

Cancer pain:

Cancer pain can arise from many different causes, including the cancer itself, compression of a nerve or other body part, fractures or treatment of the cancer. There are many techniques to assist with treating the various pains from cancer, including medications and injections. In particular, medical destruction of nerve tissue (ablative therapies) and the use of pumps surgically placed into the body to deliver pain medication into the subarachnoid space can be used. Pain pumps deliver medication that is targeted to pain receptors on the spinal cord. The advantage to the cancer patient is chronic pain control with decreased side effects.

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