Recent advances in medical treatment have improved pain management techniques for patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. Until recently pain has been a neglected, misunderstood medical condition that can affect anyone at any time. Pain management can help alleviate or reduce pain so that you can participate in life again. ACUTE PAIN comes on quickly, can be severe, and typically lasts a relatively short time. Acute pain can be brought on by:
- serious injury or accident
- back and neck pain
- herniated disc disease
- fibromyalgia (muscle and joint pain)
- cancer pain
- hip pain and knee pain
Interview with Dr. Kevin Balter:What is Midwest Pain Clinics and what makes it special?
At Midwest Pain Clinics we take care of people suffering from pain in a special way, which is an important reason why I joined this team. We basically provide one stop shopping where under one roof we can provide practically anything that might be needed for pain management care. That way we can provide more convenience and save patients time and expense and most importantly it enables our pain management doctors to be much more successful at directing and coordinating a team approach to care. This is important because many of our pain patients have complex problems that require combining a number of treatments together to get the best results.
I like to think of this like my grandmother's cooking... now this actually makes sense-- she was a great cook and enjoyed cooking with her grandchildren. Well she was able to make this happen and avoid chaos because she was a very good team leader directing my sister, brother, and I chopping up the vegetables and preparing the chicken, and we always ended up making great tasting chicken soup.
Well similarly because we have all the ingredients we need under one roof the pain management doctors at Midwest Pain Clinics are able to get the best results for our patients by directing a team approach to care. Some of the specific ingredients that we have available include medication management, physical therapy, we have our own surgery center where we are able to provide a wide spectrum of injection techniques, and we are blessed with a number of psychiatrists and behavioral therapists on our premises.
Because we manage our own surgery center we can provide IV sedation for any anxious patient undergoing procedures even if their insurance company denies the sedation. Those way patients get the care they need because they don’t have to avoid needed treatment due to a fear of needle injections.
Omaha Magazine rated us the Best Pain Center in Omaha for two consecutive years, 2014 and 2015. Of course we are very proud of that. This provides us with some validation that we're taking the right approach to patient care.
What is pain management?
Good question. I usually answer this question by bringing up my aunt who inspired me to go into the field of pain management. She had terrible pain associated with Parkinson's disease that made her life truly miserable. At the time doctors did not recognize that Parkinsons could be painful and the doctors that were treating my aunt downplayed the significance of her pain complaints and so it was not treated. I was in medical school at the time and I learned about the new field of pain management, which acted as an advocate for taking pain complaints seriously and to treat patients suffering from pain even if the underlying cause was not well understood. It was this humility in the field of pain management that opened up the doors to access to effective treatment to countless patients such as my aunt suffering from unexplained pain. In my aunt’s case she responded extremely well to implantation of a pain pump that sent pain medication directly to her spine and she was able to live out the remainder of her life essentially pain-free and of course this dramatically improved the quality of her life (and my family’s life).
So basically pain management is a field in medicine that reduces pain and associated suffering, both physical and emotional, and while we do try to identify the underlying cause of a pain, if we can't figure it out we don't let that get in the way of providing appropriate care for a suffering human being.
To give an important example, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia until very recently was not believed to be real by many clinicians because we lacked a good scientific understanding of the disease; it was not until the FDA started approving a number of drugs to reduce the pain from fibromyalgia that the diagnosis of fibromyalgia gained credibility and patients are now being offered easier access to effective treatment.
My point is that as healthcare providers we must understand that a shortcoming in our scientific understanding should not interfere with our ability to identify and treat individuals suffering from pain. This understanding is paramount at Midwest Pain Clinics.
What types of pain management problems does Midwest pain clinics address and treat?
It runs the gamut from severe refractory headaches with Botox injections to leg and foot pain and everything in between. We mostly see patients suffering from arthritis pain in the spine causing neck or back pain and we have very effective treatment for this. If medication, chiropractic, and physical therapy is not satisfactory we can burn the arthritic joint nerves (radiofrequency ablation) to block the pain for a year or longer, and we can repeat the procedure if the pain returns. We have recently become very excited about adapting this technology to treat very stubborn knee and hip joint pain that is not otherwise successfully treated including patients with continued pain despite knee or hip joint replacement surgery.
Are narcotics safe to take for chronic pain?
Narcotics can be taken safely for long periods of time to effectively treat chronic pain. However like all medications there are risks and benefits with narcotics. The most serious risk is an overdose of narcotic pain medication, which can slow down or stop breathing, which can be fatal. Certainly many drugs can cause a fatality if too much is taken such as insulin or blood pressure medication and even over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
But there is a special concern about narcotics because undertreated pain can be a strong motivator for an individual to take more than prescribed by a doctor. That is why it is very important for a prescribing doctor and patient to have good communication so that unrelieved pain can be addressed safely.
Of course another motivator to overdose on narcotics is substance abuse, or addiction. At Midwest Pain Clinics we recognize that addiction is a disease and that sufferers deserve the same dignity and respect in care as an individual suffering from any other medical condition. We are blessed at MidWest Pain Clinics with our alliance with a team of psychiatrists and counselors that are available to address this problem.
If a patient has both a substance abuse problem as well as a pain problem we are equipped to address both problems and we will not turn away a patient suffering from pain just because they either have had a substance abuse in the past or are a current user. One of our available treatments is Suboxone therapy, which simultaneously treats both narcotic addiction and pain.