Make Pain a Thing of the Past – Vertiflex procedure – Physician Partners of America

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Sharing Stories of Pain and Hope

“Everything I enjoyed caused me intense pain. It affects every aspect of your life,” says J.B., 49, one of our Texas pain patients. “Not until you get treatment do you realize you can live with less pain.”

More than 12,000 patients walk through our doors each month seeking pain relief treatment. J.B.’s is one of the many personal reflections we will share during September, which is Pain Awareness Month.

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, which organizes the annual event, about one in three people lives with intractable pain. Helping them manage and overcome it has been the mission at Physician Partners of America since 2013. We hear stories daily of people like J.B., who live with all types of chronic pain: degenerated discs, spinal stenosis, migraine, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer pain and diabetic neuropathy, among others. It is our goal to help each patient seek a path of pain relief.

How Many People Live with Chronic Pain?

During Pain Awareness Month, we are reminded of the startling numbers related to chronic pain:

  • It is the number one cause of adult disability in the U.S.
  • It affects 50 million Americans
  • It costs $100 billion per year in lost workdays, medical expenses and other benefit costs.
  • It is a social issue. As you will see from the stories we will present to you each day on social media, unmanaged chronic pain is isolating. It causes people to withdraw from friends, family and communities.

Interventional and Integrative Pain Management Approaches

Physician Partners of America practices interventional pain management. That means getting to the root cause of the pain and treating it as its source. Some types of pain can be relieved to a degree and others can be eliminated. Our pain management doctors work with our orthopedics and laser spine divisions to find the best course of treatment for each patient.

What about Opioids for Pain Treatment?

As Pain Awareness Month illustrates, the debate over opioids for pain continues to heat up. Nearly 2 million Americans have a disorder related to prescription painkillers, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

It’s important to remember that the opioid crisis stems from treatment of acute pain, the type that lasts less than three weeks. Historically, opioid medications were prescribed for short-term pain because they are effective.

“Opioids are very seductive drugs, but they work. You give opioids to somebody in pain and believe me, the pain goes away, but it only works for so long,” PPOA Chief Medical Officer Abraham Rivera, M.D., told a recent televised opioid town hall. “In the acute setting, they are phenomenal drugs. After that, the patient gets hooked on them. They’re extremely addictive.”

Strict prescription limits are now in place in many states as a result.

Physician Partners of America has long recognized the dangers of opioid addiction and uses effective options to treat the root cause of the pain versus masking it. They include:

  • Interventional pain management as a preferred treatment
  • Opioid antidotes prescribed along with every opioid-based prescription.
  • Medication management
  • Intraoperative neuromonitoring to avoid accidental nerve damage during surgery
  • Drug-genes testing to determine the right medication for each patient

New Prescribing Laws

Restrictive new laws are aimed at people with acute pain. PPOA’s pain management doctors specialize in chronic pain, which lasts more than three to six weeks. We do write prescriptions for opioid medications in select cases. Usually, these are patients who have been taking these medications for years just to function normally. However, we manage these types of prescriptions carefully.

PPOA doctors believe in reducing dosages wherever possible. PPOA founder Rodolfo Gari, M.D, MBA, recalls many successes. “I’ve had some really gratifying stories over the past 30 years – patients who come in with mega-doses of opioids and you wonder how they walked into your office.”

Pain Awareness Month is Just the Beginning

Neurostimulators and minimally invasive laser spine procedures are just some of the cutting-edge treatments PPOA uses in severe pain cases, along with nerve blocks, injections and minimally invasive laser spine procedures.

While we have seen many success stories, there is still a long way to go. The Food and Drug Administration held the first of several planned hearings with chronic pain patients in July. The agency aims to shape new guidelines to address concerns that some feel have been muted in addressing the opioid crisis.

PPOA will be watching with interest. We will keep key issues top of mind through Pain Awareness Month. We will continue to find a balance between patient safety and humane guidelines, practice interventional treatments, and wage a battle against chronic pain, one patient at a time.






Vertiflex procedure is minimally invasive and reversible

A new spinal stenosis treatment is allowing people to walk without pain for the first time in years – and without relying on opioids. Physician Partners of America now offers this minimally invasive procedure, known as the Superion Indirect Compression System, at its Texas Pain Relief Group and Florida Pain Relief Group locations.

This spinal stenosis treatment has even helped some patients leave their wheelchairs behind. That’s what recently happened for a patient of Christopher Creighton, M.D., Physician Partners of America’s pain management specialist in Richardson, Texas.  “It was truly remarkable,” Dr. Creighton says. “He came in in a wheelchair and walked out of the surgery center 100 percent pain-free.” Another patient who had hobbled for years had the same result.

Dr. Creighton calls the unique system “remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 26 years in practice.”

How does this spinal implant work?

Manufactured by Vertiflex, it is a one-inch titanium implant that slightly spreads the vertebrae, relieving pinched nerves. The implant “decompresses,” or widens, the spot that is compressing the nerve.  Once it is in place, the surgeon releases two “arms” on either side of the device to keep it secure.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes, causes little bleeding, and does not involve removal of bones or tissue. It is also completely reversible if the patient chooses a different procedure later on.

What is spinal stenosis?

Most often seen with age and wear and tear, stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It is usually associated with the lumbar, or lower, spine. The narrowing process squeezes on nerve roots that exit the spine, causing pain.

Spinal stenosis symptoms

The most common way to tell if a patient needs lumbar spinal stenosis treatment is when bending over feels better than standing straight. The bending motion opens up the space between the vertebrae, temporarily relieving the nerve compression.

What is spinal decompression?

Since it’s not comfortable to live life bent over, decompression surgery might be an answer. “Surgery,” in the case of Physician Partners of America, is always minimally invasive. That means an incisions that is one inch or less. While there are several ways to treat painful back conditions, Vertiflex shows much promise.

“It’s much faster to perform, it has less operative risk, and the results are immediate,” Dr. Creighton says.

Vertiflex procedure – an alternative to spinal fusion

This decompression device can also help people whose spines have become unstable from disc degeneration. This process releases proteins in spinal fluid, which can irritate sciatic nerves. A traditional treatment is spinal fusion, in which two or more vertebrae are permanently joined together with hardware into a single structure. The goal is to stop movement between the two bones and prevent back pain.

Fusion usually has a three- to six-month recovery time. Compare that with the days of weeks of recovery after a Vertiflex implant.

Patients in a clinical trial reported 73 percent improvement in back function after two years and 81 percent improvement after five years. Overall patient satisfaction with the implant stood at 90 percent after five years.

Ask your PPOA physician about the Vertiflex procedure as a disc degeneration and spinal stenosis treatment.




Nerve Pain Relief to Support a Healthier, More Active Lifestyle

Upcoming summer activities, such as hiking and biking, can play a great role in nerve damage, and unfortunately treating nerve pain can be difficult. Unlike other chronic pain procedures, treatment for nerve damage has to be targeted and localized, combating the pain right at the nerve itself.

The knee specialists and pain management physicians of Physician Partners of America offer a range of alternative pain management treatments designed to target nerve pain right at the source. This allows us to switch off the pain transmission without damaging any of the surrounding tissue!

Treatment Options for Nerve Pain

Radio Frequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive treatment, providing fast and long-lasting relief for nerve damage pain. Nerves are stimulated by electrodes, allowing the doctor to identify exactly where the pain is originating. After applying a local anesthetic, a hollow needle is inserted into the affected area. An electrode is threaded through the needle, and a specialized machine creates a small electric current that reacts with the nerve to switch off pain transmission.

Celiac Plexus Block

A celiac plexus block procedure is designed to combat nerve pain in the abdominal and lower back region. This procedure works by blocking the celiac plexus bundle, a cluster of nerves located in the abdomen, from sending pain signals to the spinal cord. A local anesthetic and steroid medication are injected into the celiac plexus bundle, relaxing tensed muscles and blocking pain transmission. While there may be some pain at the injection site, patients can expect a speedy recovery and long-lasting relief.

Stellate Ganglion Block

The stellate ganglion nerves run from the neck to the mid-shoulder, and a small amount of damage from tennis, rock climbing, or another outdoor activity can cause chronic neck and shoulder pain. Stellate ganglion block involves the injection of anesthetics directly into the stellate ganglion, numbing and relaxing the surrounding tissue and reducing or stopping pain transmission from the nerve cluster to the spinal cord. A harmless dye is typically injected along with the anesthetics to ensure that the nerves have been completely treated.

As you can see, though it can be a challenge to relieve nerve pain, there is a range of treatment options available. Schedule your appointment today to discuss the most appropriate treatment method for your chronic pain and be on your way to a healthy, happy, and pain-free lifestyle!