Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Easing Pain Requires Science and Art

Once considered nothing more than a symptom of a larger problem, pain today is acknowledged to be the so-called fifth vital sign. Doctors now believe pain is not only an indicator of a patient's health, but also a real impediment to full recovery. They'll stop at nothing to treat it.

New quality standards now demand hospitals treat patients’ pain aggressively and thoroughly, and advances in pain treatment are helping doctors treat even chronic pain problems.

Although Scott Brown, M.D., Robert Tsuji, M.D., and Ross Sugar, M.D., agree the practice of pain management has come a long way in the past few decades, all three LifeBridge Health doctors are quick to point out one thing has never changed.

Pain management, they say, always starts with the basics.

“The key is to do a full evaluation,” says Dr. Brown, chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a program of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute. “It has to start with a full evaluation, because you have to identify as best you can where the pain generator is.”

“The most important thing about pain management is finding a diagnosis,” agrees Dr. Tsuji, director of Pain Medicine at Northwest Hospital. “And if you can’t find out that direct cause, you want to find out at least how to manage it.”

Drs. Brown, Tsuji, Ross and LifeBridge Health’s other pain experts treat patients suffering from any number of pain problems: spine, back and neck problems; pinched nerves; muscle pain; carpel tunnel syndrome; diabetes; post-traumatic syndrome; Fibromyalgia; Lyme disease; and many, many others. “But,” Dr. Brown notes, “the basic concepts apply to everyone.”

“I feel that one of the most important services we can offer any patient, and especially pain patients, is listening. All patients have a story to tell, and if the physician is willing to listen carefully to the patient, not only will the physician gain critical insight into the patient's problem, but also an important bond of trust will be established,” says Dr. Sugar, director of Pain Medicine at Sinai Hospital.

Once the problem is targeted, there are a number of pain management techniques doctors can use to help patients overcome their pain and live a normal life. And patients are happier because of it.

In the years to come, Dr. Brown says doctors are likely to have even more effective, wide-ranging treatments for pain problems. Together the team stays abreast of developments in pain management - new drugs, more sophisticated tests and techniques, and a better overall understanding of how pain works.

But the basics, Dr. Tsuji says, will still apply.

“Pain management really is an art. And it's not going to change all that much.”

To schedule an appointment with a LifeBridge Health pain management specialist, call 410-601-WELL.

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