BENGALURU: Pain is the 5th vital sign after the primary vitals- body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate, that help assess the general physical health of a person. After Diabetes and Hypertension the next most common and pressing ailment in the society is chronic pain but is mostly neglected and not managed well.
People especially in India have an inherent tendency to grit and bear chronic pain and not seek help. For instance, women might frequently visit the cosmetology centres without fail at regular intervals but would think umpteen times before going to a pain management specialist.
Chronic pain is mostly caused due to ageing that may have affected the bones and joints or from injuries and nerve damage that fail to heal in an appropriate manner. Generally, people take pain killers to subside the pain as an easy solution but in the long run these have serious side effects. When the situation gets worse they undergo surgeries without the guarantee of being completely cured and this is primarily because of a lack of awareness of the importance of interventional pain management and a structured physical therapy program to complement it.
The focus on surgery by the big corporate hospitals as the only possible solution for conditions with chronic knee pain (arthritis) and low back pain (disc problems) have made people believe that surgeries are the only solution to the problem. These conditions when not due to a traumatic cause, are most likely due to lifestyle imbalances like excessive weight, lack of exercise, poor posture, lifting heavy weight regularly and improper footwear, to name a few.
The best line of treatment in majority of cases includes a multidisciplinary approach. This includes proper diagnosis (clinical examination and radiology) and interventional pain management procedures such as Radio Frequency Ablation, Regenerative therapies -Prolotherapy, Stem cells, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) which are extremely effective in healing, replacing, regenerating and repairing damaged tissue without the use of steroids or surgery. These therapies are most effective for conditions like lumbar spine disc pain, osteoarthritis, rotator cuff injuries, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, ankle sprain, back, knees, hips, shoulders, degenerative disc disease, arthritis and other joints and ligaments pinal cord injuries etc. In extreme cases, of course, surgeries are needed.
In pain management and regenerative medicine , the efficacy of treatment depends heavily on patient’s motivation to undergo rigorous physical therapy and make stringent modifications in their diet and lifestyle. One should be prepared to adhere to certain treatments for a few months to a year; for instance the regenerative procedures sometimes take four to five successive treatments to get the desired result. The patients should have strong determination in not just managing the chronic pain but also tackle their sedentary lifestyle, obesity and other life factors like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
The author is Bastia- orthopaedist and co-founder of Alleviate Pain Management Clinic, Bangalore