The push for more doctors to refer their patients to pain management facilities in lieu of in-house pain treatment can be difficult for some patients. As a patient who is new to treatment by a pain management facility, there are ways to make the transition easier.
Understand Your Contract
Someone at the clinic will likely explain your pain management contract before you sign the form. Make sure you thoroughly understand how facilities work and your responsibilities as a patient. You need to ask additional questions, especially to have knowledge before an emergency situation occurs. For example, pain management contracts typically state that you cannot receive pain medication from another doctor while you are under the care of pain management. This also applies to emergency room treatment.
Make sure you understand the necessary protocols to receive pain treatment from the emergency room. If you are coherent during an emergency, you will likely need to inform the emergency room staff about your contract. They will need to receive approval from your pain management doctor before administering pain medications, unless administering narcotic medications is essential to perform a procedure. Save all documentation from any emergency room or urgent care visits to give to your pain management team as soon as possible. If you receive any prescriptions upon discharge, you will likely need them approved by your pain management doctor before you can have them filled.
Agree To Alternative Treatments
Most pain management facilities will have alternative treatment approaches to pain that do not involve medication or surgery, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, or psychotherapy. Even if you have tried these methods before or you feel like they will not work, it is in your best interest to try. Additionally, it may be part of your contract to try alternative therapies in order to continue treatment with narcotic pain medications.
Physical therapy is one alternative treatment used to help with pain. If you have chronic pain due to muscle, nerve, or joint damage, the process of doing physical therapy exercises can make pain worse, even temporarily. Although the idea of increased pain is intimidating, it is important to have notes about the various treatments you have tried, even if they were not successful. In many instances, a record of poor outcomes with different treatments is what is needed to progress toward other treatment protocols.
Investigate Other Treatments
If you are currently on narcotic pain relievers alone, consider researching other procedures and medications for pain control that may benefit you. Every option available may not be brought up by your doctor and being an informed, engaged patient can help spur conversations about your care. For example, if you have never been on oral steroids or use them infrequently, ask your doctor about taking a low dose for an extended time and how this would make a difference. Although taking 5-10mg/day for several weeks will not cure your pain, it might make your pain more tolerable for a few weeks and potentially avoid building a tolerance to your narcotic pain medications.
Conditions involving chronic pain that affects the nervous system, such as ongoing back pain due to an unsuccessful back surgery or diabetic neuropathy, might benefit from a spinal cord stimulator (SCS). Unlike pain pumps that are implanted in the body and release a controlled dose of pain medicine, a SCS stimulates the spine with electrical signals to help reduce or alleviate pain. The SCS is similar to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), but is implanted within the body and has better specificity because it can target the appropriate nerves.
Making the adjustment to treatment by a pain management facility does not have to be difficult. When you are prepared for the experience by being a proactive and informed patient, you increase your chances of finding a treatment protocol that works for your needs. Look at this website for more information.