Anyone who has experienced ongoing pain knows how debilitating it can be. Whether it is sharp and stabbing or dull and achy, a persistent, uncomfortable feeling can make it difficult, and in some cases, impossible, to walk, sit, stand, or sleep properly. In particular, back, joint, shoulder, and knee pain can impact the performance of daily functions and prevent men and women from being able to fully concentrate on the tasks at hand. What’s more, studies have shown that up to half of those who battle chronic pain also struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety.
The experts are dedicated to helping patients alleviate the crippling symptoms of pain through a variety of innovative treatments and therapies so that they can get back to living their best lives. Board-certified pain management specialist explains the science behind three popular pain relief treatments and therapies.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
As part of the natural aging process, it is not uncommon to experience pain in joints throughout the body. Pain may also be caused by other factors including injuries and the onset of arthritis. As a result, patients may lose some range of motion in the joints, which may cause them to lock up. Injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) may help reduce this pain, along with related stiffness, swelling, and tenderness.
Platelets are blood cells that are responsible for causing blood clots to form. They are composed of proteins called growth factors, which regulate the growth and division of cells as well as the formation of blood vessels that help the body heal itself. Made up of water and proteins, plasma is the liquid portion of blood. It helps red and white blood cells, as well as platelets, circulate throughout the body. PRP therapy relies on platelets that are extracted from a patient’s own blood to speed up the healing of joints. Vials of blood are processed in a centrifuge, which causes the platelets to become concentrated. Once injected into the joints, growth factors are released prompting an increase in the number of reparative cells that the body produces.
PRP is able to improve and enhance healing in the body. Injections are frequently used to treat shoulder pain associated with a torn rotator cuff, as well as conditions including tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. The knees, ankles, and most other joints also may benefit from PRP injections. This natural therapy is usually well tolerated since PRP is derived from a patient’s own blood. It ultimately may decrease the need for patients to use medications such as anti-inflammatories and opioids in order to alleviate their pain. In most cases, no downtime is required following PRP injections. However, it may take several weeks to experience real results, which may be maintained with future PRP injections.
Cortisone Steroid Injections
Used to treat inflammation in areas around the body, powerful cortisone steroid (also called corticosteroid) injections are frequently administered in the knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders. They are effective for temporarily alleviating the pain of inflamed muscles, tendons, and joints that may be caused by overuse or certain medical conditions such as bursitis, osteoarthritis, or tendonitis. The injections can assist patients whose pain and inflammation are so debilitating that it prevents them from successfully completing physical therapy. Injections also may prove helpful as patients attempt to postpone related surgeries for as long as possible. It is important to remember that in most cases, a cortisone steroid injection does not treat the underlying condition that causes the inflammation to occur. Rather, it reduces the resulting inflammation and pain.
Prior to administering the injection, a numbing topical anesthetic may be applied to the skin. Ultrasound technology can be employed by a Board-certified pain management specialist to allow for better guidance of the needle that delivers the corticosteroid into the inflamed area. Excess fluid that surrounds the treated area can be removed to further reduce inflammation and pain. Patients may be observed briefly following their injection. It is not unusual to experience some temporary tenderness at and around the injection site, which can be treated with ice. Depending on the area that was treated, the duration of the pain relief experienced following a cortisone steroid injection may vary. While it is possible to receive follow-up injections, those usually are limited to no more than three per year.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation therapy uses electric impulses to mask the signals that are responsible for chronic pain before the brain is able to receive and process them. It is effective for patients who grapple with ongoing back, leg, or arm pain. It is especially useful for those who have been unable to achieve relief through surgery or other forms of therapy. While injury often is a cause of chronic pain, arthritis, diseases of the nervous system, and multiple sclerosis can also be to blame.
Placed surgically beneath the skin, a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) sends mild electric currents to the spinal cord. Wires transmit the current that is created by a pulse generator to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. Meanwhile, the SCS device stimulates nerves in the area where the pain is experienced. The discomfort is effectively reduced as the electric pulses help disguise pain signals prior to reaching the brain.
A trial SCS is placed while patients are under anesthesia. Following the procedure, they are sent home to monitor the amount of pain they experience while performing normal activities. If an improvement is reported, the physician may determine that a permanent SCS device can be placed. During this procedure, the pulse generator is inserted beneath the skin. Electric pulses may be custom programmed to suit a patient’s individual pain-relief requirements. During follow-up appointments, adjustments can be made as needed.
Relief Can Be Yours
No one should have to live with chronic pain. Several innovative options are available that can bring much-needed relief to those who suffer from shoulder, knee, and back pain.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has four convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park, Lindenhurst, and Valley Stream – Long Island. Call the Queens office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for the Long Island offices, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.