A different approach to managing chronic back pain.
Did you know that back pain is the second most common reason people visit their health care provider? Although most people silently suffer, back pain is a leading cause of job-related disability and missed work. It is said that 90 percent of people will suffer from back pain at some time during their life. For most, the problem begins with acute back pain caused by a sudden injury to the muscles and ligaments supporting the back. If improperly treated, this condition will worsen over time and lead to chronic back pain.
In the past, physicians relied heavily on opioids to help their patients living with chronic pain. However, in May 2017, the Federal Drug Administration released a “blueprint” to educate healthcare professions on how to identify and manage acute and chronic pain by using alternative methods.
BEYOND OPIODS FOR PAIN RELIEF
Dr. Eric Lonseth, a pain management specialist who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of spinal disorders and chronic back pain, has dedicated his life to finding and providing the best methods and alternative solutions to address pain management. Recognizing that there is an alarming link between the chronic pain patients and opiate addiction, he takes a different approach to pain management.
“Pain is the main reason why people seek medical help, and it is the common thread of all medical ailments,” Dr. Lonseth says. “When acute pain becomes chronic, it involves the interplay of biological, psychological and social factors. Because each person is affected differently, each patient needs an individual plan of care. Some of my patients complain of the direct experience of pain or the pain intensity, while, for others, the impact of their pain is felt through the deterioration of their quality of life.”
Since the use of opiates has now become an epidemic, not only has this created a greater urgency for alternative therapies, it has also created a crisis for the chronic pain community. No longer able to take the medications on which they have traditionally relied, patients with chronic pain need alternatives. A specialized pain doctor such as Dr. Lonseth has spent his career looking beyond medication to help patients deal with their pain. “We offer a variety of state-of-the-art therapies to pinpoint and treat the source of pain and then provide non-surgical, rehabilitation-oriented treatments and solutions,” he says. “Our goal is to help a patient get back to their best life, by returning to their normal activities as quickly as possible.”
An industry leader in non-invasive treatments, Dr. Lonseth earned his medical degree from Tulane School of Medicine and his Master of Public Health from Tulane University. He completed his residency and fellowship with the prestigious University of California, San Francisco, where he served as chief fellow. In 2010, Dr. Lonseth was instrumental in starting East Jefferson General Hospital’s pain management clinic, where for years he continued to serve as a director of the clinic and then as division chief of pain medicine. With more than a decade of knowledge and experience, he then created Lonseth Interventional Pain Centers, which take a multidisciplinary approach in the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain and state-of-the-art pain management programs.
“Controlling pain is vital to our patient’s physical and mental health,” Dr. Lonseth says. “When pain goes untreated, this can cause depression and anxiety, loss of sleep, strained family relationships and poor work performance. Pain will also decrease the body’s ability to fight disease and prevent our patients from participating fully in their own self-care. At our clinics, we use the latest techniques to relieve pain so my patients can get back to what they love most.”
With a double board certification in both anesthesiology and pain management, Dr. Lonseth takes a unique approach to pain management. The following are some of the many interventional pain management techniques offered by Dr. Lonseth.
Acupuncture: After performing a consultation and physical examination, a certified acupuncturist inserts fine needles as thin as strands of hair into targeted points on the body. Inserting the needles into these targeted areas can help with imbalances and offer pain relief, and there is little to no discomfort during an acupuncture session. Whether a patient needs one or more acupuncture sessions varies case by case.
Nerve Blocks: These injections are used to provide temporary pain relief by sending powerful medications, such as steroids and opioids, onto or near your nerves to relieve pain. One of the most common injections is an epidural steroid injection in your lumbar spine (low back). This injection sends steroids directly to the nerve root that is inflamed.
Radiofrequency Ablation or Rhizotomy: Using x-ray guidance and a needle with an electrode at the tip that gets heated, radiofrequency rhizotomy temporarily turns off a nerve’s ability to send pain messages to your brain. For many patients, this procedure can provide pain relief for six to 12 months.
Spinal Cord Stimulation: Also referred to as neurostimulation, directs mild electrical pulses to interfere with pain messages reaching the brain. A small device implanted near the spine generates these pulses, which sends the current to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. When turned on, the SCS stimulates the nerves in the area where the pain is felt.
NOT JUST A PAIN SCORE
“When we treat our patients, we are not looking at an artificial pain score,” Dr. Lonseth says. “Our focus instead is our patient’s daily activities and how we can get them back to life. By asking questions and taking one step at a time in comprehensive pain management, we try one approach and then wait and see how the patient responds before moving on to another approach.”
Recognized as an expert in the complex treatment of debilitating pain, Dr. Lonseth has been consulted regularly by both local and national correspondents. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurosurgery at Tulane University School of Medicine and is a credentialed provider for the MD Anderson Physicians Network.