The most common reason patients seek care is pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. But for millions of people, pain is an ongoing condition with causes as varied as injury, disease and aging.
“Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists after the normal healing process has occurred — usually six months after an injury or surgery,” says Ian Malburg, MD, Ascension Medical Group’s interventional pain management physician in Manhattan.
Specialists like Dr. Malburg examine patients’ individual needs to determine the best pain management plan, which may include implants, surgery, injections, lifestyle changes, medication or a combination of treatments.
We asked Dr. Malburg to discuss how he works with patients seeking help for painful conditions.
What is the most common ailment you see?
The majority of my patients have pain related to the spine — neck pain, headaches, back pain and pain that radiates down into the legs or arms . In the case of degenerative conditions, the disorder doesn’t improve on its own.
How do you treat pain?
Treatments can include epidurals, implants for neurostimulation therapy, and even medications commonly used for seizure disorders and depression . Other options include physical or psychological therapy, exercise and healthy lifestyle behaviors . For example, tobacco use leads to poor circulation and inhibits healing, so quitting can also help reduce pain over time.
What is neurostimulation therapy?
It involves surgically placing an electrode in the epidural space near your spine . An implanted device provides electrical signals that decrease pain messages sent to your brain.
Why do you avoid using opioid medication?
Opioids can be effective in relieving severe pain, but they come with numerous negative side effects and are not always the best option . If necessary, I prefer to keep patients at the lowest dose possible . Patients can develop a tolerance to the drug’s results, so dosages must be increased to achieve therapeutic benefits . This may lead to uncontrolled pain in the area of treatment and other parts of the body that an increase in dosage will not help . Misuse can lead to death and has become an epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed has quadrupled since 1999 even though the amount of pain that Americans report hasn’t changed. During that time, more than 165,000 people have died from an overdose related to opioid abuse.
What should potential patients expect?
My goal is to help patients significantly reduce their pain and improve function so they can enjoy daily life . I encourage patients to be committed to their treatment plan for better pain management results.
Dr. Malburg is accepting new patients at Via Christi Pain Management Clinic in Manhattan. Call 785-323-6300.