Chronic pain is an issue that millions of Americans deal with everyday, so if it’s affecting you, you are not alone. In fact, approximately 20% of the population deal with some level of chronic pain at some point.
Unlike acute pain that you may experience from a minor injury or illness, chronic pain persists for weeks, months or even years and can have a negative impact on nearly every part of your life. Chronic pain can take you away from your job, your family and friends and even make it difficult to do your favorite activities and hobbies.
Although it may feel hopeless if you haven’t found relief from basic treatments, there are effective therapies that can help you effectively manage chronic pain on a long-term basis. Interventional pain management is an approach to overcoming pain that involves a wide spectrum of treatments that work together to address the causes of pain, relieve symptoms and improve function.
Understanding Pain Management Injections
One of the most common techniques for interventional pain management are injections that are designed to deliver pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medication to the treatment area. Although pain management injections are effective, the variety of types and terms can be overwhelming to someone exploring their options for relief. We’re sharing this guide to help patients understand the types of injections available and how they can help as part of a broader interventional pain management plan.
Epidural Steroid Injections
This is one of the most common types of injections for people with lower back pain or neck pain. Epidural steroid injections typically include a combination of a numbing agent, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid and saline solution. The medication is injected into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord using precision guidance with X-ray fluoroscopy or other techniques.
Epidural steroid injections provide relief over a period of weeks to months, enabling patients to increase activity and complete physical therapy that can help with spine conditions on a longer-term basis.
Facet Joint Injections
Facet joint injections are another spinal injection that can provide relief for joint inflammation related to arthritis and other conditions. The facet joints link the vertebrae in the spine and are subject to the same stresses that cause inflammation and arthritis in other joints. Facet joint injections relieve the inflammation and stiffness that are a byproduct of arthritis. Like epidural injections, facet joint injections usually include a mixture of a numbing agent and an anti-inflammatory steroid.
Trigger Point Injections
Trigger point injections are designed to treat knots that develop due to excessive muscle contraction, known as trigger points. In addition to causing localized pain, trigger points can also irritate surrounding nerves and cause pain and discomfort in other areas. For example a trigger point in the neck can cause people to feel symptoms in their arms and hands.
Trigger point injections can help to relax the muscle tension in a trigger point and release and flush toxins from the area. These injections can include a numbing agent, anti-inflammatory medication such as a steroid.
A nerve block is an injection that deactivates pain signals along a nerve or a group of nerves. X-ray guidance is generally used to help the provider place the injection in the precise location.
Nerve blocks can be used for both diagnostic and pain relief purposes. When diagnosing the location of pain, a doctor can inject a nerve block into the area believed to be the source of pain, and if a patient feels relief, it can confirm the diagnosis. When used for pain relief, the injection can include pain relieving and/or anti-inflammatory medication.
Injections as part of a larger treatment plan
Most doctors will recommend pain management injections as part of a broader treatment plan that includes physical therapy, massage, diet, exercise and alternative therapies such as acupuncture. The relief and improved mobility made possible through injections can enable patients to complete exercise programs and physical therapy that can strengthen supporting muscles and relieve pressure on joints and discs that are often the sources of pain.
If weeks or months of interventional pain management methods do not bring the relief necessary for a good quality of life, surgery can become an option. Today, minimally invasive, outpatient procedures help promote a shorter and easier recovery period compared to traditional hospital-based surgeries.
The caring and dedicated team at Physician Partners of America (PPOA) works with patients to create long-lasting, personalized pain management solutions that help patients get their lives back. Our options include short-term to long-term treatment plans that take an educational and collaborative approach for people from all walks of life. Talk to a PPOA specialist today to learn more about your options and start your pain relief journey.