Pain Management FAQ’s
If you suffer from chronic pain, seeing a pain management specialist is the important first step on the road to relief and a renewed life. Here we answer some frequently asked questions about pain management and what you can expect when you’re ready to schedule an appointment.
What is chronic pain?
Pain falls into two categories, acute and chronic. Acute pain is by far the most common and refers to any short-term pain that will generally go away on its own as the body heals. Acute pain can be brief and minor, like when you stub your toe, or more severe and drawn out like in the case of a broken bone.
Chronic pain refers to any pain that lasts longer than three months. There are a wide variety of possible causes of chronic pain, many of which are not well understood. It is usually the result of a medical condition or severe trauma that compresses or aggravates nerves and often does not go away its own.
Many chronic pain conditions do not have an actual cure, in which case the goal of pain management specialists is to provide as much relief to the patient as possible.
Some common chronic pain conditions include spinal stenosis, sciatica, migraines, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, post-surgery pain, arthritis, and herniated or degenerated discs.
What is pain management?
The primary goal of pain management is to identify the root cause of pain and then administer the appropriate treatment. Pain management treatment will usually not “fix” or “heal” the underlying issues causing pain. Instead, its aim is to reduce the pain as much as possible to improve quality of life.
What is a pain management specialist?
They are clinically trained experts with a unique and advanced knowledge of what causes pain and how best to address it. This makes them the most highly qualified kind of medical professional for identifying the root cause of pain and prescribing an appropriate course of treatment to provide relief.
When should I see a pain management specialist?
Seeing a pain management specialist is USUALLY not necessary in the case of acute pain because it is short-term and will generally go away on its own with basic medical care or home remedies. However, you may be referred to a pain specialist for especially severe cases of acute pain, particularly if the cause is unknown and/or initial remedies are ineffective at providing relief.
What happens at a pain management clinic?
Based on your feedback, medical history, and a physical examination, your provider will recommend an appropriate course of treatment aimed at providing you with optimal relief. In some cases, your provider may want to obtain additional information including lab results and diagnostic tests (e.g. x-ray imaging) to help inform their diagnosis and treatment recommendations. It may be a minor therapy that is completed there in the clinic, or a more advanced procedure that will be performed in an outpatient surgery setting.
How do pain management specialists treat chronic pain?
Some pain can be successfully treated with conservative options like non-opioid medication management, physical therapy, and medical cannabis. These are generally the simplest therapies, though they must be administered on an ongoing basis to be most effective.
If conservative options fail to provide adequate relief, pain can often be treated with intermediate procedures like radiofrequency ablation or injections. These are more involved than conservative treatments, in that they are performed while the patient is under some manner of sedation. But they can usually provide several months of relief after a single procedure.
If pain persists after attempting conservative and intermediate therapies, an implantable device may be the best course of treatment to relieve your pain. These are among the most advanced and effective therapies available for treating chronic pain. They include spinal cord stimulation (SCS), dorsal root ganglion stimulation (DRG), peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS), and intrathecal pumps. Implantable devices are the most involved form of chronic pain treatment, in that they are outpatient procedures performed in a surgical setting while the patient is under sedation. But just one of these procedures can provide significant pain relief for many years.
What kind of medications are used to treat pain?
Some of these are available over the counter such as Advil and Aleve. Others are available by prescription, such as Celebrex. All of them relieve pain by reducing inflammation.
Opioids are the most powerful prescription pain medications available. They can be used to treat acute or chronic pain successfully. However, opioid medications can have negative consequences, including addiction, tolerance to the medication, constipation, drowsiness, and other side effects. Therefore, these medications are closely regulated and are not suitable for everyone. Only a thorough medical consultation can determine whether opioid therapy is appropriate for your pain condition.
Steroids are available in oral form and via injection. They have a more powerful anti-inflammatory effect than NSAIDS but are used only on a short-term basis to eliminate inflammation that is causing pain.
These are prescription medications that relieve pain by reducing muscle spasms.
These prescription medications relieve pain by lessening the sensitivity of the nervous system.
Pain can often disrupt sleep and make it more difficult for a person to cope with their pain. Sleep medications are prescribed to improve restorative sleep.
Chronic pain patients often have depression. Antidepressants can improve mood and make it easier to tolerate pain. They can also have a direct effect on reducing pain.
Topicals are medications that are applied directly onto the painful part of your body. They are generally administered either as a cream that is rubbed into the skin, or a patch that is adhered onto the skin. The medication is absorbed through the skin where it can then interact with your source of pain and provide relief. Topicals are usually very well tolerated with minimal side effects.
Do I need a referral to go to a pain management clinic?
Even if your insurance plan does not require a referral, it is advisable that you obtain one anyway. A referral will give your pain management specialist valuable information that will allow them to more effectively and promptly develop an optimal care plan for you.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, our reps will help determine if you require a referral before being seen.
Does insurance cover pain management care?
Many insurance carriers will require a specific set of criteria be met before authorizing pain management treatments and/or procedures. Your pain management clinic will inform you of these criteria and assist you in meeting them.
It is also important that you check whether your chosen pain management clinic is in-network with your insurance carrier. Though you are generally allowed to see an out-of-network provider, you will likely have significantly reduced benefit coverage than if you were to see an in-network provider.
Twin Cities Pain Clinic will confirm your insurance coverage when scheduling your first appointment.
RELIEVE YOUR PAIN, RENEW YOUR LIFE!