People suffer from all kinds of physical pain. It can manifest in the lower back, arm, leg or other areas of the body. This pain may hinder a person from doing her job, getting a good night’s rest or enjoying favorite pastimes, like playing with grandchildren. When the pain persists for three or more months, the uncomfortable sensation is labeled chronic pain. And although pain is common, treatment options are generally poorly understood.
The good news is many physicians and surgeons at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are dedicated to the management of pain. They recently shared their expertise by hosting a one-day educational workshop titled Essentials in Pain Management for healthcare professionals involved in managing pain.
Attendees learned about the basic biology of pain perception and how to manage complex pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia. The workshop also covered current topics, such as opioid prescribing safety, medical marijuana use and stem cell therapies.
Co-Director of Columbia’s Neurosurgical Pain Center, Dr. Winfree is a leader in the practice and development of the latest surgical techniques for managing pain. He often shares his expertise on this topic, as in this talk on a new surgical treatment for a type of pain called complex regional pain syndrome.
One of the neurosurgical advances Dr. Winfree discussed during his presentation was neurostimulation. Neurostimulation involves surgically placing an electrical device near the spinal cord or a nerve, where the pain is thought to originate. Once placed, the device emits a weak electrical current, blocking the sensation of pain.
There are several forms of neurostimulation, each varying by the location of the device in the body. For instance, spinal cord stimulation involves implanting the device along the spinal cord. Peripheral nerve stimulation, on the other hand, involves placing the device along a nerve outside of the spine, in the leg or arm, for example.
Surgical options like neurostimulation are not for everyone. Patients are carefully screened for the procedures, and they are only considered once more conservative measures, including medication and physical therapy, have failed to relieve the pain.
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