The field of interventional pain management has evolved substantially over the past decade. This is primarily due to the increased ability of physicians who specialize in interventional pain management to pinpoint the cause of spinal pain through the use of MRI’s and the performance of diagnostic injections and nerve blocks. This has expanded the ability of interventional pain physicians to safely and effectively treat lower back and neck pain with minimally invasive procedures. Some of the more common treatments performed by the doctors at the Pain Specialists of Greater Chicago are listed to the left of this page.
The most common pain complaints encountered are related to the spine. The sources of spinal pain are now well known through the research of the last few decades. The spinal canal is formed by individual bones called vertebra. These vertebra protect the spinal cord and the nerves that exit the spinal cord through openings between the vertebra. These vertebra articulate, or meet, each other at three distinct joints which allow movement. The disc joints are found just in front of the spinal cord and the paired facet joints are found behind the spinal cord. It is these joints which are subjected to constant wear and tear, stress and strain, with daily living and which are effected by the normal aging changes associated with all joints (degenerative osteoarthritis). These are joints which can become injured or inflamed and which can cause chronic pain. Derangements of these joints can also cause pressure or inflammation of the spinal cord or exiting nerves causing extremity pain as well (often called sciatica in the leg).
The treatments which can alleviate spinal pain are directed at these joints or at the small nerves through which the pain travels from these joints back to the spinal cord on the way to the brain. Utilizing live x-ray, or fluoroscopy, pain management physicians are able to reduce pain from involved spinal joints through injections of minute amounts of steroids directly into or adjacent to the joints felt to be the source of pain. If these are ineffective or do not give prolonged relief, the pain can be reduced through injections of local anesthetic and steroid on the nerves through which the pain is traveling to the spinal cord. If prolonged pain relief is not achieved in this manner, these injections, or nerve blocks, also serve to predict the ability of the pain physician to obtain long term relief utilizing methods which stop these nerves from functioning through the application of heat in a very safe and controlled manner. All of these pain relieving treatments have the advantage of having excellent risk/benefit ratios (risk being minimal while the chance of benefit is excellent). Another distinct benefit of these treatments is the ability of the pain management physician to safely repeat the treatment in the future if prolonged relief is obtained.