When Cheryl, 59, walked into the Magaziner Center for Wellness in Cherry Hill, her knees were inflamed and so severely wracked with pain that she couldn’t walk without a cane. Though she had been unsteady on her feet for a few years, when an orthopedic surgeon suggested knee surgery she resisted. Cheryl wanted another, less invasive option.
So, Dr. Allan Magaziner examined her, ran X-ray and MRI scans, and eventually prescribed natural anti-inflammatory supplements, along with a prolotherapy regimen—a series of dextrose injections at the site of her pain. “After two treatments, she felt about 60 percent [better], and she was no longer using her cane,” Magaziner says. He followed up with two platelet-rich plasma treatments. After those injections, Cheryl’s “pain was now 90 percent gone, and she was able to resume bike-riding with her grandchildren. Her function was restored.”
Like Cheryl, hundreds of people in South Jersey suffer from joint pain, back pain, fibromyalgia and other potentially debilitating conditions. But through medical advancements and a greater emphasis on complementary, well-rounded treatments, pain management specialists are able not just to treat the symptoms, but in some cases to address the cause of the discomfort and offer long-term –even permanent—solutions.
“We do try to manage the symptoms, to calm down the pain, anxiety and inflammation. But ultimately we’re trying to treat the source, using some of the modern techniques and treatment options we now have available,” says Dr. Michael Sabia, a pain management specialist and the pain medicine fellowship director at Cooper University Hospital.
The first step to feeling better is understanding when to seek help.
It’s time to seek medical advice when one of a few things occurs, says Sabia: “If pain has persisted for more than two weeks … or if pain is radiating, such as pain from your spine that radiates down your arm or your leg, that’s the time when you seek a work-up.”
As well, certain people can benefit from preventive pain management services; pregnant women would fall into that category. For them, the doctors at RA Pain Services in Burlington specialize in obstetrical pain. “We will manage the patients pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and post-pregnancy. We have multiple programs set up for the pregnant patient to prevent or lessen low-back pain during pregnancy,” says RA’s Dr. Gary Buck.
As to what kind of treatment is available once you do seek help, the options are more varied – and less invasive—than ever. Patients like Cheryl are finding that scary, time-consuming surgeries are no longer the only option, and that doctors can tailor treatments to meet their individual needs.
When it comes to back pain and issues like herniated disks, Sabia says he’s had great success with minimally invasive procedures such as using a needle or an endoscope to remove a segment of a spinal disc or to ablate (that is, to burn) the pinched nerves, alleviating pain for years or even for life. It’s not just older patients taking advantage of these services either; Sabia says the popularity of high-impact sports like Crossfit has also sent younger people to pain management specialists with conditions like facet arthropathy, a sort of arthritis of the joints that can also be treated by ablating the nerves.
Magaziner says he’s seen similarly long-lasting results with prolotherapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy, because both encourage the body to heal itself. He says platelet-rich plasma recently helped a patient of his with a partial rotator-cuff tear avoid the operating room. Prolotherapy injections, meanwhile, have helped many of his patients with chronic joint pain, by stimulating cells to generate collagen and connective tissue at the site of the injury. “Not everyone has to take medications or have surgery. There are other options out there that are equally effective and maybe even more effective,” he says.
Just as important as the techniques available, though, is a doctor’s willingness to take a comprehensive, multimodal approach to addressing pain. Sabia says fibromyalgia patients, for example, benefit from a combination of aquatherapy, stretching exercises, medication and trigger-point injections into painful muscle knots. In this case, though, “You need the motivated patient who doesn’t just want to take a pill and feel better, because that’s only going to help maybe 30 percent of the problem.” Patients have to be willing to put in the work.
For those who want as many options as possible, RA Pain Services also offers a full spectrum of treatments, from surgery and medication, to acupuncture and hypnosis. Buck says that physicians at his practice have backgrounds in neurology, physical medicine, rehab, anesthesiology, pharmacy and chiropractic, and they all work together to ensure a full spectrum of care to treat each patient’s individual issues and concerns. “Our staff is multifaceted,” he notes. “In addition to pain management, our practice offers a health and wellness program with holistic management.” That can help ensure the pain goes away and doesn’t return.
As Magaziner says, pain management is all about having options. “We provide alternatives,” he says, “and options to give people back their range of motion, their joint function and their health.”
Ease the Pain
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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May, 2012).
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