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Chronic or acute. Physical or emotional. No matter the form or severity, pain is often unbearable. Pain specialists in the valley offer techniques and procedures to control the aches, and can even help patients become pain free after years of hurt.
“Pain in the neck” is a common figure of speech. But when used literally, it can indicate a serious issue. In fact, pain on any part of the body – or even felt emotionally – is not to be ignored.
Physiatrists, chiropractors, physical therapists and psychiatrists all work daily with patients to help ease pain. Here, Roanoke Valley physicians in several disciplines break down the various types of pain and how to get the best treatment possible.
The Physiatry Approach
Before pain can be treated, says Dr. Murray Joiner, a physiatrist of physical medicine in Roanoke, the doctor and patient must spend time together to get to the root of where and when the pain began.
“Often, the problem started somewhere besides where a patient thought it did,” he adds. “I get a detailed history, review tests (such as x-rays, CT scans and nerve tests) and perform a physical exam to come up with an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.”
Joiner also asks specific questions about the pain: “How severe? What makes it feel better? Is it sharp, dull, achy, sore, etc.?
“Each question is specific to a nerve or other parts of the body,” he explains. “The patient’s answer helps pinpoint the actual problem.”
Joiner treats two basic types of pain, nociceptive and neuropathic. Examples of nociceptive pain include broken bones, herniated disks, arthritis or inflammation. Treatments may involve the use of heat, water, exercise or traction. Interventional techniques, such as the burning or freezing of nerves, or implanting devices into the spine to cover up the pain, are also used when necessary.
“In our specialty, we are willing to consider anything not off the wall to get you better,” Joiner says.
Neuropathic pain, often difficult to treat, refers to pain generated from the nerve itself, such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome or peripheral neuropathy (widespread nerve damage). Medications such as Cymbalta or Lyrica may be prescribed, or Joiner may use therapeutic modalities or electrical devices to treat the pain.
It is important for a patient to cooperate with the doctor in order to reap the most benefits from treatment.
“You can’t start out with the premonition that you’re not going to get better, you have to want to be fixed,” Joiner says. “We’re going to figure out what to do to make you better. To have you as a patient for life, we’ve failed.”
Most people experience relief once treatment begins, Joiner says. And patients can further manage their pain at home via hot or cold packs or lukewarm baths.
“This is a challenging specialty, and I love every day of it,” says Joiner. “When I see people leave with no more pain, it’s a great feeling.”
Whether a patient visits a chiropractor in addition to or in lieu of a pain management specialist, Dr. Craig Camidge with Tuck Chiropractic Clinic wants to build the knowledge in patients that chiropractic care is a “gentle treatment.”
“The drawbacks to what we do are minimal,” Camidge says. “People are often interested in trying this before something more invasive,” such as surgery, injections or long-term medicinal therapy.
When meeting with a patient, Camidge first analyzes the severity of the pain. Those who just experienced an injury or recently began feeling pain are diagnosed with acute pain. If a patient has been in pain for a long time and may have tried numerous options for relief, the pain is considered chronic.