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Pain-relief (2)

02 Nov

Oral opioids, by their very nature, are an inefficient – as well as a potentially dangerous – option for pain relief. That’s because opioids aren’t administered directly where they’re needed; after consumption, they work their way through the bloodstream before attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord and other organs.[1]

Fortunately, there’s a more efficient way to administer pain-relieving medications: directly where the pain signals travel. This method, called intrathecal pump implantation (or targeted drug deliver), delivers medication right to the intrathecal space, meaning pain relief can be achieved with roughly 1/300 of the dose of oral opioids.[2] For some chronic pain patients, this means more accurate pain relief with fewer of the side effects linked to oral opioids.

Overview of Intrathecal Pumps

An intrathecal pump consists of a pump, which can contain various combinations of medication, and a catheter. The device is able to provide targeted pain relief because the catheter is placed directly into the intrathecal space, the region surrounding your spinal cord. Pain signals travel along the spinal cord to the brain; the catheter delivers medication directly to that area, effectively preventing the pain signals from being perceived by the brain.[3]

The amount of medication released into the intrathecal space is controlled with an external programmer, which is pre-set with parameters and can be used by the patient to control breakthrough pain.

Intrathecal pumps are generally recommended for people with chronic pain who have utilized conservative treatments with limited success. It may also be used for people who have had surgery but are still experiencing pain, or people for whom surgery is not likely to help.[3]

Getting a Pump

The qualification process for a pump begins with a behavioral health consult for all patients. Patients who are experiencing depression, a lack of social support or a lack of motivation toward wellness do not do as well with implantable therapies. So during this mandatory step, a behavioral health professional will ensure that the patient is in the best possible position to achieve success with the implant.

After behavioral health clearance, the patient will undergo a reversible trial of the devise to ensure effectiveness of the therapy. This important step allows each patient to try the device and make sure it provides them adequate pain relief.

During the trial, the doctor administers local anesthetic then inserts a catheter through either a needle or a small incision into the intrathecal space. The catheter is then connected to an external temporary pump.[3] The patient will be able to try the system for roughly a week, and if the patient and the physician deem the trial successful, then a permanent device will be implanted.

During the permanent procedure, the patient will typically be put under local anesthetic. The temporary catheter will be removed and replaced with a permanent one. A permanent pump will be placed under the skin, usually in the abdomen, and connected to the catheter.[3]

Follow-up Care and Side Effects

After implantation, the patient will need to visit the doctor regularly so the pump can be refilled with medications. The pump itself contains a battery that will last several years. (The battery life will depend on which type of pump is utilized.)[3] After that time, a new catheter will be implanted.

There are may be some side effects related to the implant. For instance, mild discomfort and swelling at the incision site can occur after implantation. Over time, activity may move or damage the catheter, which would then require repositioning or replacement.

Learn More

For more information regarding intrathecal pumps, or to find out if one may be right for you, call (888) 901-PAIN (7246).

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[1] "What Are Opioids?" Drugabuse.gov. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nov. 2014. Web. 04 Aug. 2016.

[2] Lynch, Louise. “Intrathecal Drug Delivery Systems.” Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain 14, no. 1 (September 4, 2013): 27-31.

[3] “ViewMedica Patient Engagement Videos.” Swarm Interactive. 2015. Accessed August 5, 2016. http://www.viewmedica.com/

01 Nov

With one online search – or a poll of your close friends and family members – you’ll get countless suggestions for relieving your pain. People are more than happy to give you the “secret” about pain, whether that’s “a supplement that will cure everything” or “a simple chemical/additive/food that’s the root of all your problems.” Myths like these are everywhere, and some are more dangerous than others. Here are a few of the most common.

  1. The truth is that pain is never normal.

    While age does bring with it nuisance aches and pains, saying that pain is normal can actually stop people from seeking the help they need. The physical wear and tear on our bodies from getting older can indeed lead to chronically painful issues, like herniated discs and joint pain, but these conditions can be treated. So when pain comes your way, don’t blame age – and don’t just suffer through it. Find real answers (and real relief).
  2. You can just push through it.

    We as humans have the tendency to think that if we simply ignore an issue, it will go away on its own. We assume we can tough it out or “grin and bear it” and that seeking help will somehow make us look weak. But ignoring pain can have serious consequences. It can impair your relationships and ability to function, cause emotional issues and, worst of all, cause you to hurt yourself further. In fact, leaving pain untreated – or trying to treat it yourself – can often make it more difficult to treat down the road. So when a health issue arises, especially if it involves long-lasting pain, suck it up and see a doctor (or you’ll pay for it later on).
  3. Rest is the best medicine.

    Conventional wisdom dictates that if you’re sick, you rest and give your body time to heal. The same is true with acute pain; laying off activities or chores after an injury can give your body time to repair itself. But chronic pain is different. While a day or two taking it easy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, more than that can actually have quite negative consequences. In fact, it’s been shown that bed rest is associated with more days off work and increased pain and disability.[1] It can result in decreased muscle conditioning and tone, cause digestive issues and put you at risk for blood clots. According to Harvard Medical School, if you must lie down, do it only for a few hours and for no longer than a day or two.[2] A better solution for addressing chronic pain is actually to get back to normal activities as soon as possible – with a little rest thrown in when absolutely needed.
  4. It must be in your head.

    To chronic pain sufferers, it can often seem like those around them don’t believe that their pain is real. After years of suffering with pain, you may still not have a concrete diagnosis and both your doctors and family members may start suggesting psychiatric help. All signs seem to suggest that they think you’re going crazy – or worse, just making it up. And sometimes you might be inclined to agree.

    But the truth is they know it’s real, just like you do. Your friends and doctors – especially if they’re trained to treat pain – know that pain is a complex issue that’s often invisible to the naked eye. And recommending behavioral health care isn’t an implication that you’re crazy or making it up. It comes from a place of caring, since chronic pain can often go hand in hand with anxiety, depression and coping difficulties. It means they want to see you get better – not just physically, but also mentally. So believe in those around you and trust that they’ll believe in you.

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[1] Wilkes, M. S. “Chronic Back Pain: Does Bed Rest Help?” Western Journal of Medicine 172, no. 2 (February 1, 2000): 121–21.

[2] Harvard Health Publications. “Bed Rest for Back Pain? A Little Bit Will Do You.” January 24, 2017. Accessed February 13, 2017. http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/bed-rest-for-back-pain-a-little-bit-will-do-you.

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