More than 100 million people in the United States have pain that won’t go away. Many fail to get relief from pills, shots and surgery, while others trade the pain for side effects such as drowsiness or digestive problems. Unfortunately, too many become addicted to medications while trying to relieve their pain.
As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, a variety of technologies offer new hope to people living with chronic illnesses.
“Pain is one of the most challenging things to treat because its source can be elusive,” says Richard Rosenquist, M.D., chair of the Committee on Pain Medicine and chairman of the department of pain management at the Anesthesiology Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “That’s why it’s vital to see a physician specializing in pain medicine who can help identify the source of the pain and suggest which pain method might work best.”
Physician anesthesiologists who specialize in pain management have extensive training and expertise in finding the cause of suffering. Partnering with their patients to create a plan for managing pain and improving function, which may include one or more of the new techniques.
Relieving Chronic Pain with New Treatments
- Radio waves — Radiofrequency (RF) ablation involves heating a tiny area of nerve tissue, which short circuits pain signals. The pain medicine specialist inserts a needle into the nerve responsible for the pain and zaps it using an electric current created by radio waves.
- Blocking the pain — Pain medicine physicians inject numbing medication that blocks or dampens pain, and might even stop chronic pain from developing. Pain in the arm or face can be relieved by blocking nerves in the neck, while chronic abdominal pain can be relieved by an injection into nerves supplying the abdomen.
- Electric signals — Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can provide short-term pain relief for certain types of muscle pain by sending low voltage electric signals from a small device to the painful area through pads attached to the skin.
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