Understanding chronic pain

Sunday Signal

According to a survey from Boston Scientific of more than 500 people with chronic pain, 60% aren’t satisfied with their current treatment or therapies. Professional golfer Grant Waite can relate.

Repetitive, rotational movements make golf incredibly stressful on the back. Waite tried multiple surgeries, which didn’t provide relief, and he said he couldn’t function while taking prescription medications.

Twelve years ago, the pain in his back was so debilitating he could barely get out of bed, let alone play professional golf or spend time with his family. “Pain is debilitating not just physically, but mentally and emotionally because there’s no escaping it. When you’re in pain, it’s just difficult to function.”

According to the CDC, more than 50 million chronic pain sufferers nationwide are struggling with pain that lasts for six months or longer without finding relief. One of the most common reasons that adults seek medical care, chronic pain has been linked to restrictions in mobility and daily activities, dependence on opioids, anxiety and depression, and reduced quality of life. Unfortunately, less than half of those surveyed are aware of drug-free, minimally invasive, interventional therapies helping patients such as Waite return to activities they love and regain hope for their future.

Waite sought help from a pain management specialist — a doctor specially trained to address acute and chronic pain. That’s when he learned about spinal cord stimulation.

SCS is an FDA-approved implanted medical device that interrupts pain signals from reaching the brain. Unlike some surgical procedures, it can be personalized to an individual’s needs and is reversible.

Patients undergo a trial period, allowing them to evaluate and adjust the pain relief delivered before deciding to receive a permanent implant. Initially, Waite didn’t know much about this treatment, but after completing his trial and full implantation with the Boston Scientific Spectra WaveWriter SCS System, he champions it.

“Before SCS, my pain forced me to give up my active lifestyle, which was hard. Now there are very few limitations on what I can do,” says Waite, who is back to playing golf, working out, and even hiking and traveling with his family.

“The experience of chronic pain is complex and unique to every person. But pain management specialists have many tools in our arsenal that can provide adequate, lasting, personalized pain relief,” says Dr. Steve Pyles, a pain specialist and founder of the Pain Treatment Centers in Florida.

The new survey found that 94% of chronic pain sufferers would try an FDA-approved, drug-free alternative to help manage chronic pain, but less than half have ever seen a pain specialist.

Dr. Pyles notes that for patients with chronic pain in the lower back, legs and feet, SCS offers a personalized experience that can treat multiple pain areas simultaneously. For those suffering from moderate lumbar spinal stenosis, interspinous spacers may relieve pain and discomfort in the lower back, legs, groin and buttocks. Alternatively, radiofrequency ablation delivers a small current to interrupt pain signals at the source.

To find a local pain management specialist and learn more about chronic pain, visit www.pain.com, an educational site from Boston Scientific. You can also take a pain assessment quiz and connect with other patients.

Life with chronic pain can be all-encompassing. However, experts say that non-drug therapies are providing tangible relief to patients. (SPT) 

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