What Is Interventional Pain Management and Is It Right for You?
If you experience back, neck or knee pain, you know it can get in the way of everyday life. Over 20 million suffer from chronic pain in the U.S. Often this chronic pain doesn’t go away with traditional pain management, such as over-the-counter medicine, physical therapy or lifestyle changes. For many in this situation, interventional pain management may help.
Interventional pain management is a medical specialty that uses safe and effective advanced techniques and minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat chronic pain. The goal is to reduce pain and improve mobility. Minimally invasive approaches help block the transmission of nerve signals to the brain. Because minimally invasive procedures usually take under an hour and do not require an incision, this approach offers many advantages. Specialists also use these procedures if you’re not a candidate for surgery due to another medical condition.
What is interventional pain management used to treat?
“Interventional pain management specialists can treat many injuries and conditions,” said Lance Hoffman, MD, board certified in anesthesiology/pain medicine and a physician at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Spine Center. Specialists in interventional pain management generally don’t treat pain related to trauma or an acute condition. “We treat patients who experience severe pain that has lasted over time,” said Dr. Hoffman. These can include:
- A partial knee tear.
- Back and neck pain.
- Cancers that affect the spine.
- Congenital disorders.
- Degenerative spine disease.
- Herniated disc.
- Neoplastic disorders.
- Osteoarthritic disorders.
- Vascular disorders.
- Soft tissue injury.
What are common types of interventional pain treatments?
Interventional pain management specialists provide treatments without the use of surgery. “At St. Elizabeth, we have two fluoroscopy (medical imaging) suites where we perform minimally invasive treatments,” said Dr. Hoffman. “We’re very strategic in our approach and apply those strategies to treat each person using a multimodal approach.” A multimodal approach means combining two or more treatment options, for instance, medications and procedures, to manage pain and improve outcomes. Interventional pain treatments can include:
- Injections target different areas of pain throughout the body. These injections can include:
- Epidural steroid injection – uses a local anesthetic to reduce pain and inflammation by numbing the nerves and then injecting a corticosteroid or other solution into the space of your spine.
- Facet joint block – uses fluoroscopy, an image-guided needle placement, to identify and treat pain directly in the facet joint (the joints form the articular pillars that help provide structural stability to the vertebral column).
- Sacroiliac joint injection – uses local anesthetic and corticosteroids injected into the SI joint that links the pelvis and lower spine.
- Trigger point injection – injects medicine into the trigger point to help relax muscles and reduce pain.
2. Kyphoplasty is a procedure used to help relieve pain caused by compression fractures where specialists use special cement injected into the vertebrae to create space and restore a damaged vertebra’s height.
3. Nerve Blocks inject medicine near or on a nerve. Different types of nerve blocks include:
- Medial branch block – treats arthritic joint changes or low back pain. Specialists inject medication near the nerve outside the affected joint space.
- Sympathetic block – treats vascular issues or chronic regional pain syndrome (RSD), a condition causing severe burning pain in one of the arms, legs, hands or feet.
4. Radiofrequency nerve ablation uses electrical currents (radio waves) to heat a specific joint nerve to destroy the nerve and relieve pain.
5. Spinal cord stimulation applies gentle electrical impulses along the spinal cord to generate signals to the spinal column and block the brain’s ability to recognize pain. This procedure can benefit those who have chronic pain and have not found relief through surgery.
Can my primary care provider treat my pain?
When you’re considering the right treatment team for your condition, it’s important to choose a collaborative team. This team should work across specialties and work well with your primary care provider. Since your primary care provider is your first point of contact, they can refer you to an interventional pain management specialist if you have chronic pain that doesn’t lessen with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medicines.
“An interventional pain medicine specialist will develop a treatment plan, which may include diagnostic tests and non-surgical options for managing your symptoms,” said Dr. Hoffman. “We use interventional approaches to accurately uncover the root cause of pain.” Many minimally invasive treatments can help relieve pain for six months up to two years.
When should I see an interventional pain management specialist?
“I encourage you to see a specialist if your pain is not responding to traditional medical care or lifestyle changes (including diet and exercise). Pain can severely impact daily living, and we don’t want to see that in our patients,” said Dr. Hoffman. “If pain keeps you from enjoying the things you love, it’s time to see a specialist.”
Talk with a professional
Interventional pain management is a great way to treat back, neck and knee pain and other types of chronic pain. It can help you find relief from your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Learn more about the Interventional Pain Management Program or schedule an appointment by calling (859)-212-7000.