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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