Take time, caution when treating chronic pain

Jun 11 2013 - 10:52pm

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Chronic pain pushes people to make irrational choices. Desperate to relieve pain, the distressed can be convinced to try just about anything. However, making the wrong choice can delay appropriate treatment, cause further damage, or intensify the pain.

Constant pain can be agonizing and there is rarely a quick cure. Every body reacts differently to stimuli, to medications and to therapy.

Start with a physician who is fully trained in pain management. There are many facilities and so-called practitioners making claims of "miracle cures" with ornate, elaborate, and sometimes harmful methods -- none of which have been properly tested or proven through accepted medical research and review.

I tell my patients legitimate, medically trained and licensed physicians base their practice on "evidence based medicine". This means the procedures, the methodologies, the medications and the treatments have been tested, analyzed, and reviewed under controlled and medically accepted conditions.

Proper pain management starts with a thorough examination by a qualified pain management specialist. A pain management specialist must go through years of additional training to understand, identify and learn how to treat the complexities of pain.

Pain management requires exhaustive training in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, neurological and many other complex factors that can trigger or stop pain. "Fad medicine" or "miracle" therapies are usually experimental techniques that temporarily mask the pain -- and then it returns. It's like the man who hit his thumb with a hammer to forget about his migraine headache. He may have forgotten about the migraine for a short time, but eventually it became worse and he was left with a broken thumb and a migraine.

If you are one who suffer from chronic pain, there are things you should expect from your doctor.

First, expect a thorough examination to try and isolate the pain and its source. Our nervous system and physiology are very complex. Next, a program to provide as much relief as possible. Everybody is not the same and the source of every body's pain is different. We try our best to alleviate pain -- many times we succeed, and sometime we don't. There are cases where all we can do is make the patient as comfortable as possible.

A true pain management physician has a full palette of evidence based medicine -- no magic bullet or experimental treatment. I use multiple modalities to customize treatment to each individual patient instead of a single method. The solutions could be simply prescribing or changing medication or it could be a minimally invasive procedure performed in our office. We try to minimize medication and maximize cure. More advanced cases may require treatments in a hospital setting.

When you visit a physician for pain management, check credentials. Qualified physicians in any specialty are proud of the extra years they spent in medical training to offer patients the best possible care. Never be afraid to ask what makes your doctor qualified to treat you for your condition. A qualified physician will be glad you asked.

Raul Weston, MD, is a fellowship trained specialist in internventional pain medicine, receiving his training at the University of Utah Medical Center and Huntsman Cancer Institute. To contact Dr. Weston, call at 801-294-7246.

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