Pain can be, well, a pain. It can severely compromise your quality of life, interfering with your ability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy everyday activities.
Pain management offers relief. Treatment, however, can be complex—and must be carefully administered and monitored to prevent potential harmful effects, including the risk of addiction.
At Spectrum, we have a team of anesthesiologists who specialize in pain management. With their training and experience in controlling pain during surgery, they’re uniquely qualified to prescribe and administer pain medications beyond the operating room, and perform or recommend special pain management techniques and approaches.
Here’s a closer look at the types of pain these specialists treat, and how they treat it:
Acute pain management
Acute pain is temporary pain that lasts for a short period of time. Many patients experience acute pain or discomfort following surgery.
For your comfort and healing, it’s important that you receive adequate pain relief postoperatively. Left untreated, postop pain can place stress on your heart and blood pressure, and make it difficult to breathe, get out of bed, or walk.
Your anesthesiologist is responsible for ensuring that your pain is under control before you’re discharged from the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU).
- To ensure you’re able to get adequate rest and heal as quickly as possible, your Spectrum anesthesiologist will monitor your pain levels following surgery, and prescribe appropriate pain medications or perform specialized procedures to keep you comfortable
Chronic pain management
Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t go away. It typically lasts three months or more, and can include:
- Arthritis in your joints or back that aches on most days
- Lingering surgical or trauma pain
- Frequent migraine headaches
- Fibromyalgia and musculoskeletal pain
- Nerve pain
- Back and neck injuries
- Cancer-related pain
How chronic pain is treated
If you are dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to know that you have many treatment options.
- Over-the-counter remedies, such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- More powerful drugs, such as opioids
- Anti-seizure medications
Your pain management specialist may suggest a combination of medications to target different aspects of your pain. Because opioids can be addictive, and other medications can cause side effects or interact with one another, it’s imperative to choose a qualified pain medicine specialist who understands how these medications work and how they can be used safely.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy (PT) involves specific exercises that strengthen or stretch muscles and ease pain. It’s particularly helpful for addressing musculoskeletal pain.
- Medical procedures: These minimally invasive options include:
- Nerve blocks, in which anesthetic injected near a nerve blocks pain messages to the brain
- Surgically snipping overactive nerves
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that uses low-voltage electric current to relieve pain
- Medication pumps, in which a small pump is surgically placed under the skin to deliver medication via catheter directly to the spinal cord, relieving pain and reducing the side effects of medication.
- Complementary therapies: Some people find relief using such techniques as biofeedback, relaxation, meditation, acupuncture, visualization or other alternative therapies
- Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight to relieve stress on arthritic hips and knees, good nutrition and regular exercise can all help relieve or prevent chronic pain
Spectrum’s commitment to safe opioid prescribing
While we are committed to helping our patients manage their post-surgical and chronic pain as effectively as possible, we also are mindful of the opioid crisis in New England and the nation.
That’s why Spectrum has adopted a multi-modal approach to post-surgical pain management. This means administering two or more drugs that act by different mechanisms to provide pain relief. Research shows that this approach improves pain relief while reducing opioid requirements and their related adverse effects—including the risk of addiction.
In addition, we’ve undertaken initiatives that we hope will result in fewer unnecessary opioids in the community:
- A quality improvement project is looking at how we improve pain management for our orthopaedic surgery patients while ensuring we send them home with the appropriate amount of pain medication
- A group of our orthopaedic advanced practice providers is studying how long patients take post-op pain medication to better inform optimal prescribing
Find a Spectrum pain management specialist
Spectrum’s pain management specialists see patients at many of our sites of service. Please visit our Locations page to find a specialist near you.