Pain is an everyday occurrence for Americans. A decent amount of those Americans, deal with chronic pain requiring serious medical intervention. In order to deal with this epidemic, millions of doctors are writing out prescriptions for pain management. The medications tend to be potent narcotic opioids, with the potential to cause terrible side effects and addiction. In the past decade, statistics for the abuse of opiates like Vicodin and oxycontin have skyrocketed. More Americans than ever before are struggling with an opiate addiction. These narcotics have only been putting a Band-Aid on pain. Narcotics can’t be a long-term solution for pain management.
In order to counteract these statistics, doctors have begun to collaborate in search for a better way to treat chronic pain. New developments in the medical field have made it possible to begin treating pain at its source. The shift from narcotics to alternative forms of pain management will be essential for the betterment of everyone’s health.
Chronic pain is a long-term medical condition. The process of finding treatment options for it may be complex. Not every remedy will suffice. What works for one persons shoulder pain may not work for another person’s osteoarthritis. Everyone’s bodies will react differently to each form of pain management. Working closely with your doctor and keeping an open mind about this will be crucial. The goal is to minimize your pain so you can live a happy and fulfilling life!
The power of ones own body to heal itself has become evident, Platelet Rich Plasma injections also known as PRP injections are a new form of therapy. It is a non-operative and non-invasive solution for pain management. The process is autologous meaning the treatment comes from the patient’s body creating minimal risk.
The procedure for the therapy involves drawing blood from a patient’s arm, spinning it in a centrifuge then a solution is extracted from the patients’ blood, highly concentrated with their own platelets, and then is injected in to the injured area promoting healing at an accelerated rate. The platelets contain growth factors which have been proven to regenerate the damaged tissue.
Many patients suffering with osteoarthritis have seen a huge reduction in their overall pain levels after completing just one injection of PRP. A study conducted by Sandeep Patel, MS, at the Department if Orthopedics and Department of Transfusion Medicine, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India supports this. It showed significant improvement with function and a pain decrease by 82%.
Cellular Regeneration with Stem Cells
The human body is full of specialized cells altogether make up organs, tissues, muscles, and joints. These cells are constantly regenerating and degenerating. When the body is injured multiple cells become stuck in a degenerative state creating painful and less functional structures. stem cells have shown promise in regenerative therapy with the ability to treat pain at the source. The cells are undeveloped and self renewing. When these stem cells are placed in a certain environment they’re able to configure themselves to cater to a specific need. For example, stem cells that are injected into a damaged tissue would develop into tissue.
The procedure is non-surgical and non-invasive. The stem cells used are adult stem cells pulled from bone marrow. The two main stem cells found in bone marrow are hematopoietic cells which help with tissue regeneration, and mesenchymal cells which have the capacity to form into bone structure, cartilage or muscle. After these cells are extracted from the bone marrow, they are spun in a centrifuge to become concentrated and reintroduced to the injured area.
While the treatment has only been around for a short while many patients suffering with mild to moderately severe osteoarthritis have benefitted from regenerative stem cell therapy. The opportunities for this form of treatment are boundless and the benefits are one of a kind.
Cortisone shots are injections administered to a specific area of the body. Similar to PRP injections, they’re used to treat pain and inflammation. Cortisone itself is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication it is not a painkiller. The pain is minimized strictly by reducing inflammation. Many conditions benefit from cortisone shots such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The shots are sometimes painful, mostly just slight discomfort. Topical anesthetics are typically used The shots begin to take effect after a few days and last a few weeks. Unlike stem cell regeneration and PRP injections there may be side effects. Pain at the site of administration for a few days may occur and there is a possibility of infection. High in patients with diabetes, they may experience a spike in blood sugar. Overall, cortisone shots are great for temporary relief of symptoms caused by inflammation.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, more commonly referred to as NSAID’s, are an OTC (over the counter) pain management medicine. This medication is not a pain killer, it is another anti-inflammatory drug. The body responds to injuries by becoming inflamed. Signs of inflammation include swelling, redness, and pain. NSAID’S are similar to cortisone but it is not injected and is less potent. Typically these drugs are taken orally and last for 6-8 hours. They are said to be beneficial for minor symptoms of pain. They can be used in conjunction when receiving either PRP injections, regenerative stem cell injections, or cortisone shots as an additional anti-inflammatory measure. This also will reduce pain the same way as a cortisone shot would by minimizing inflammation. NSAID’s are a common and useful medication to treat inflammation and in turn pain.
In the Biopsychosocial model of pain, medication and symptom intervention are not the only solution to chronic pain. Only treating the biological responses to pain have been proven to be ineffective. Medication alone should not be the only intervention used to treat chronic pain. There are behavioral and cognitive matters to tend to as well.
Acupuncture has been utilized in pain management originally in China as far back as the 1600’s. The therapy is conducted by inserting very thin needles into specific points in the body meant to alleviate pain. Results from multiple studies prove that acupuncture will help ease pain in patients with back pain, knee pain, neck pain, pain from osteoarthritis, and even benefit patients suffering with migraines. It has also been shown to increase function specifically in patients with osteoarthritis.
“Yoga and Pilates, both of which have gained popularity over the past decade are two mind-body exercise interventions that address both the physical and mental aspects of pain with core strengthening, flexibility, and relaxation.” Says Susan Sorosky. These exercises are great for mindfulness and help with the ability to focus ones energy on a specific part of the body experiencing discomfort.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, is a way to change the way you think about pain. In their meta-analysis, Morley, Eccleston, and Williams (1999) found that CBT interventions promoted signiﬁcant improvements in multiple psychosocial dimensions of chronic pain (coping, pain behavior, social functioning). Speciﬁc examples of cognitive areas addressed by CBT include catastrophizing, acceptance of the pain condition, avoidance of activity due to unrealistic concerns about harm (fear avoidance, kinesiophobia), and expectations of pain treatment (Vowles, McCracken, & Eccleston, 2007). Additional CBT methods include relaxation training, attention control, motivation (motivational interviewing), and activity management training (pacing). CBT is often short term and skill oriented, two valuable aspects with regard to treatment of chronic pain patients.
A New Leaf
Over 100 million Americans struggle with chronic pain. It effects more Americans than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer all together. The treatment for pain should be all encompassing. One band aid solution like a narcotic opioid will not suffice. The biopsychosocial model for pain clearly demonstrates this. Utilizing the various treatment options available is in your best interest. Such as, Trying PRP injections while taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and trying a yoga class. Results are shown when pain is treated holistically. Every solution for pain management will not work for everyone. There will be trial and error. It is crucial to work closely with your Doctor to find the option for pain management that will work for you.