What Is Interventional Pain Management?

//What Is Interventional Pain Management?

What Is Interventional Pain Management?

If you’re in pain, interventional pain management can help you reduce pain and get you back to your life. Practitioners use cutting-edge treatment options along with holistic therapies. For example, a patient may receive nerve blocks or facet joint injections, along with reduced medication doses and physical therapy or chiropractic care to address the root of their pain issue. Practitioners look at the patient as a whole person, rather than just their pain. Because of this, interventional pain management is uniquely situated to help relieve chronic pain symptoms.

What is interventional pain management?

Interventional pain management is a discipline in pain management that is rooted in the goal to help patients relieve their pain. These specialized pain doctors look beyond medication to help someone deal with pain. They rely instead on a vast array of therapies to help diagnose, reduce, and if possible, completely relieve a person’s pain. The ultimate goal is to help a patient get back to their best life. Often, doctors do this by helping patients return to their normal activities as quickly as possible.

Interventional pain management clinics often have multiple types of practitioners on hand. They all tackle various portions of the patient’s problem. For example:

  • A chiropractor for spine issues
  • An acupuncturist for alternative measures
  • Pain doctors who perform minimally-invasive procedures or injections
  • Chiropractors or physical therapists to resolve muscular issues
  • Mental health therapists to treat often comorbid symptoms of depression and anxiety

By having multiple specialists on the staff, a patient has the best possible chance of getting the treatment they need. It also encourages collaboration between these different specialists to find all of the options a patient may have for reducing pain.

When someone is in pain, they’ll look for any possible method to get relief. A pain specialist who practices these techniques has the ability to first diagnose the problem to determine what the issue is, then treat the pain accordingly. In an interventional pain management practice, the issue causing the pain is taken care of via a procedure or treatment, and if it cannot be handled in just one session, then that’s where the management side of things comes into play. By working with a dedicated pain management team, a patient can receive an overall treatment regimen that will make sure that their pain levels are as tolerable as possible.

A video about this approach

The doctors at Arizona Pain discuss this pain management approach in more detail below.

What are interventional pain management techniques? 

The most common treatments for acute cases of pain–short bed rest, analgesics, hot/cold compresses, and exercise–may not always work for chronic pain. In these cases, doctors turn to more interventional techniques. We’ve listed some of the more common interventional techniques below, with videos to help explain and show different procedures.

Interventional pain management techniques include:

  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Facet joint injections
  • Medial branch blocks
  • Nerve blocks
  • Sacroiliac injections
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Medication
  • Spinal cord stimulation, and other neurostimulation approaches
  • Trigger point injections

Of course, this is not a fully exhaustive list. By talking to your pain doctor, you can learn more about what pain management procedures could work best for you.

Epidural steroid injections

The goal of these injections is to reduce inflammation and pain in the nerve roots as they exit the spine. A local anesthetic and a steroid are injected into the epidural space, the area right outside the membrane that covers the spinal cord and its nerves. Patients can experience a significant reduction in pain due to these injections, but more than one is generally needed. Injections are administered every three to four weeks and stop when a significant reduction of pain is achieved. Injections can resume if pain resumes.

You can learn more about epidural steroid injections at the following Pain Doctor blogs:

Learn more about an epidural steroid injection procedure in the video below.

Facet joint injections and medial branch blocks 

A practitioner typically uses facet joint injections and medial branch blocks to diagnose the cause and location of your pain.

With a facet joint injection, your doctor injects a small dose of local anesthetic and steroid directly into your facet joint to block pain. The goal of this interventional pain management option is to help you tolerate pain better so that you can participate in rehabilitative physical therapy. Facet joint injections are not meant as a long-term solution to chronic pain but rather one tool to help you work through your recovery.

A medial branch block is a direct and non-invasive method of treating and diagnosing pain that originates in the facet joint in the spine.

Read more about how medial branch blocks or facet joint injections in our blog posts:

Watch on to see a medial branch block demonstration.

Lumbar facet nerve blocks

Your doctor administers these injections in the same manner as facet joint injections, that is along the sides of the spine. There may be one or more injections, depending on the severity of the pain. These blocks can be therapeutic, blocking pain, or diagnostic to see if the back is where the issue lies. If a patient has a cold or the flu or is on blood thinners, the doctor will not be able to perform this intervention.

Sacroiliac injections

Sacroiliac injections are given directly into the sacroiliac joint that’s located at the bottom of the spine. These injections can offer pain relief that lasts from 24-48 hours with a steroid medication, or just a couple hours with a local anesthetic. Your doctor can also use these as diagnostic tools.

To learn more about sacroiliac pain, and how this pain management option could help, watch the following video.

Radiofrequency ablation 

As noted in our longer post on this topic:

“Radiofrequency ablation is a therapy that uses radio waves to create an electrical current. This current delivers heat to targeted nerve tissues, in an attempt to reduce chronic pain symptoms that are associated with various conditions. The way the heat is applied to the nerve tissue impairs or destroys the nerves, resulting in a semi-permanent disturbance of the transmission of pain signals from the spinal column to the brain.”

Read any of the following blog posts to learn more about this interventional pain management option:

Once you’ve learned more about this option, watch the procedure video below.

Spinal cord stimulation

From our post about spinal cord stimulation:

“Lesions on the central or peripheral nervous system can cause dysfunction and result in chronic neuropathic pain. Using spinal cord stimulation for the management of this type of chronic pain has been effective for many patients. Inserting a medical device near the spinal cord that delivers low-level electrical impulses to the epidural space is the foundation of spinal cord stimulation. These low levels of electrical impulse are the basis of signals sent through the body’s neurological system. Often these devices have a hand-held regulator used by the patient that sends pain-blocking signals to the spinal cord as needed. The physician and individual goal is to override the pain signals the brain would be receiving from the peripheral nerves.”

Watch the following video to see how spinal cord stimulation helped a patient get her life back.

Other interventional pain management procedures

This is only a brief sampling of some of the interventional pain management techniques your pain doctor may use. Other options may include:

  • Injections in the ankles, knees, or hips
  • Computed tomography
  • Adhesiolysis
  • Disc denervation
  • Epidurolysis
  • Botox injections
  • Hardware blocks
  • Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty
  • Trigger point injections
  • DRG stimulation

To learn more about all of these options, head over to our Interventional section in our pain library. Your pain doctor, and entire pain management team, will work closely with you to figure out which option will work best for you. This will depend on what type of pain you’re experiencing, the severity of your pain, any risk factors, or other barriers to treatment. Because of this, it’s vital that you’re as open as possible when talking to your doctor about your pain.

Treating the whole body 

Finally, this type of pain management isn’t just about treating the painful area itself. It’s about treating the whole person and helping them get back to the life they want to lead. While pain management doctors will use many of the therapies discussed here, they’ll also rely on whole-body therapies to help you get your life back. Pain doctors know that pain doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and so treatment shouldn’t either.

These methods may include:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Physical therapy
  • Dietary or fitness counseling
  • Talk therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback

Remember, an interventional pain management doctor is just one professional who can help with your pain. Pain management often takes a team approach to truly work. You can learn more about this approach at the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.

Getting started with interventional pain management

If someone is in pain, they often go to their primary care physician to seek treatment or maybe to the hospital. Although those resources can certainly be of assistance, a doctor whose primary focus is pain knows all of the intricacies of a condition that a person may be experiencing.

As a system, this method of pain management is a way for doctors to regulate and treat the pain that a patient is experiencing, with the goal being overall relief of the problem at hand. Whether it means a short treatment to end the pain immediately, or a longer course to provide long-term solutions, the result is the same: the pain becomes manageable for you. It’s this goal that drives this approach and keeps pushing pain doctors to find even better and more cutting-edge treatment options for patients.

These pain management techniques are just one way to combat chronic pain; tell us about your experience with these or other techniques to combat pain. To find a interventional pain management doctor in your area, click the button below. 

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By | 2017-11-30T15:54:38-07:00 November 30th, 2017|Tags: , |18 Comments

About the Author:

Pain Doctor
Pain Doctor was created with one mission in mind: help and educate people about their pain conditions, treatment options and find a doctor who can help end their pain issues.


  1. Avatar
    gipisy teuscher February 14, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    do these injections really help the person>> the pain always comes back in the same place…

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor February 21, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Gipisy — It really does depend on the patient and the cause of their pain. Injections have helped many patients reduce their pain substantially. The best way to know if it will work for you is to get an accurate diagnosis so you know what’s actually causing your pain. You can find a pain specialist your area here: https://paindoctor.com/find-your-pain-doctor/

  2. Avatar
    Kylie February 28, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    What a great resource! You really break down interventional pain management in a way that’s easy to understand. Most people suffering from chronic pain often think that there is one treatment option for them, when really a comprehensive approach like this is the best option. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 7, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks for your comments Kylie! We appreciate them.

  3. Avatar
    Alicia March 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    I am so sick and tired of my pain mgmt “doctor,” that I asked my primary doctor if he could give me a referral somewhere else. I have had multiple problems in the last year with the place I go to now, and in the five years I have been with this practice, I have never had a negative urine analysis or problems following their instructions. My doctor has referred me to a doctor who practices Interventional Pain Management, and I am nervous, because my body has become reliant on 7.5/325 oxycodone. I go because of a metal rod with screws in my arm, along with a skin graft, and now, fibromyalgia. Can you give me any information on what to expect from my new pain specialist?

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Alicia — We are so sorry to hear about the issues you were having with your previous pain doctor. As this post discusses, a good interventional pain management doctor will use a combination of therapies to help you treat your pain. Medication may be part of that arsenal, but they’ll likely use other therapies like injections, chiropractic or physical therapy, talk therapy, or radiofrequency ablation. Simply put, treating pain is about treating the whole person, not just the painful spot. When you get there, make sure to discuss your goals for treatment, your current pain levels, and how’s it’s impacting your life. We wish you the best of luck during your appointment!

  4. Avatar
    Jo Ann Bordley June 6, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Does Interventional Pain Specialist treat Rheumatology and Osteoarthritis of the hip and knee?

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor June 12, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Jo Ann — It matters on the doctor of course, but many treat these conditions. You can use our map search to find a pain specialist near you: https://paindoctor.com/find-your-pain-doctor/. Hope that helps!

  5. Avatar
    Linda September 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I have MS pain. It’s a progressive, and incurable. Previously pain was controlled by low level opiates. Now the law restricts that. I’m hesitant to have any invasion of my spine due to the possibility of brining on a MS attack. Are there neurologists on staff?

  6. Avatar
    Denise September 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    I need help desperately! Due to several different problems (cervical surgery needed, widening of spinal cord) then, move to low back and both shoulders (I am 46 and am devastated). I suffered for 7mo due to inadequate treatment, then suffered a heart attack, then they treated my pain properly. I’ve literally just moved here, was taken off Opana (taken off market) was on 40 mg x2 and dilated 4mg x3. I was finally able to work part time. New dr here stopped cold turkey my meds and has since changed them roughly weekly to every other week…… My pain is unbearable, and now my mind and emotional being from drug changes is truly messing up my life. I’ve not been able to function any longer and want to move back but am stuck here. I’m scared and unable to even care for myself any longer. My new latest meds are long acting dilated 8mg x 2 and short acting 4mg x2. I need help and don’t know where to turn. This has been I believe an assault on my system as well as incredibly poor care. I would be so very grateful for your feedback on this. I don’t know where to turn.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Denise — We are so sorry to hear about the challenges you’ve had. We recommend talking to your doctor for help. If you don’t have one, you can find a doctor here: https://paindoctor.com/get-relief-now/, or if there’s not one in your area in that directory, figure out how to find the best one in your area here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/. Further, one of the worst parts about chronic pain is not having anyone around who truly understands what you face on a day-to-day basis. We highly recommend finding a local or online support group so you can talk to other patients who understand what a life with chronic pain is like. You can find online ones here: https://paindoctor.com/chronic-pain-support-groups.

  7. Avatar
    Helen Wall December 5, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I have been diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia . Can the pain (electric shock sensation and burning) be treated without surgery? I have been on Gabapantine, 2800 mg per day but this medication is no longer working. Would acupuncture help?
    Can pain management help?
    I need help.

  8. Avatar
    Riya Patel December 14, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    thanks for this informative post….When a person is in pain, they always need someone who will understand what they are going through & something to eliminate the pain they are feeling. Having chronic pain will badly affect your life including your movement, physical capability, mental & emotional condition. You really break down interventional pain management in a way that’s easy to understand. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Thank you and Good luck. Please stay us informed like this.Thank you for sharing.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor February 19, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Thanks for your feedback!

  9. Avatar
    Matthew J Tischer February 15, 2018 at 2:00 am

    I ruptured L4-L5, and a complete blow-out of L5-S1 in 2014. I underwent the bi-level fusion, but the pain quickly returned. Then the pain spread. My neurosurgeon immediately recognized CRPS symptoms. I have almost complete paralysis in my left foot that has spread to the knee, to my right foot to mid calf, to my left hand, and now jaw and vision. The depression has caught up to me as well.
    My PM Dr finally “stabilized” my pain levels with multiple meds (including opioids), but after the release of the CDC/ DEA guideline, this Dr is now either paranoid or being forced to comply to the exact suggestions of the guideline. It is a total cut of 70% +/-. In the past year I have gone from “moderately helpful” with family, to almost bed ridden.
    The idea of the neural stimulator has already been ruled out as being most likely more damaging, so that leaves 2 options (that I know of) … the “pain pump” (intrathecal), or ketamine infusion (preferably the 5-7 day inpatient awake).
    Which would be the safest for treating the pain and eliminating the opiods and benzos?
    Thanks for any reply.

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor February 19, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Hi Matthew — We are so sorry to hear about the challenges you’ve had with CRPS and depression. We recommend talking to your doctor for other options and help. Unfortunately, we can’t answer specific medical questions on the blog, so if you need a second opinion, you can find one of our doctors here: https://paindoctor.com/get-relief-now/, or if there’s not one in your area in that directory, figure out how to find the best one in your area here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.

      Further, one of the worst parts about chronic pain and depression is not having anyone around who truly understands what you face on a day-to-day basis. We highly recommend finding a local or online support group so you can talk to other patients who understand what a life with chronic pain is like. You can find online ones here: https://paindoctor.com/chronic-pain-support-groups. Other patients can also suggest treatment approaches that have helped them manage their pain. Hope that helps!

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