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Technological advancements simplified pain management

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By: Dr. Amod Manocha

The complexities of pain and the fact that surgery or pills cannot resolve all pain has been long recognised. Though living with undiagnosed or untreated chronic pain is seen by some as a sign of incredible resilience, it has many detrimental effects on our body beyond suffering. Accepting pain to be a part of life or ageing, restricts individuals from exploring the existing treatment modalities and negatively impacts on the quality of life.

Prevalence of individuals experiencing some form of pain is quite high, in fact one in every five person suffers from pain which without the right treatment can last forever. Attributing to lack of awareness, knowledge and misinformation, pain takes the driver’s seat for many, which can be far worse than their actual ailment. Thus, the dire need among the masses to raise awareness that there is no longer a necessity to live with pain.

The month of September is internationally designated as Pain awareness month, aiming to create and raise awareness amongst all. With the aging population and changing lifestyles worldwide, this 2 decades has more relevance in today’s time. Supported by the latest technology and specialist training, pain physicians worldwide have been striving to alleviate every type of pain. As every individual process pain differently, this is a challenging task, requiring an individualised, multi-disciplinary and multi modal approach.

Your pain is treatable!

Persistent pain not only has an adverse impact on the quality of life but often leaves patients confused or blaming themselves for the pain. When no obvious cause is found it leads to more dissatisfaction, frustration, mood disturbances, suffering and breakdown of the doctor–patient relationship, thus promoting doctor shopping.

Technological advancement and availability of new interventional techniques are changing the way we look at age old problems and what we offer to our patients for pain relief. These new options offer advantages of being minimally invasive, day care procedures without any prolonged rehabilitation requirements and with the potential of offering long lasting pain relief.

Radiofrequency Ablation – This minimally invasive technique offers a ray of hope for patients with pain including those originating from joints such as neck, lower back, hip, knee and shoulder. The focus in this procedure is to deactivate the nerves transmitting pain signals which can in turn improve functionality and reduced medication requirements. The awareness for this commonly performed procedure in developed countries is now increasing in India. This option offers a safe, effective, non-surgical alternative and in most cases the nerve cells regenerate within 1-2 years of therapy, at which point, if necessary, the procedure can be repeated.

Cryoablation -This technology has undergone significant advancement over the years and can be used for relief in a magnitude of pain conditions including Cancer pain, arthritis of large joints such as the knee, hip and shoulder, joints in the spine, sacroiliac joints, nerve pain, post-surgical pain, pain after rib fracture etc. The primary aim in cryoablation treatment is deactivation of the nerves transmitting the pain signals by freezing them in a controlled fashion to temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees. This treatment does not require any cuts or incisions and has the potential of providing quick and lasting relief.  Less pain can translate into improved functional ability, reduced painkiller requirements and reduced disability. Besides, it can be easily repeated without any added side effects.

Technological advancements such as availability of portable high-definition ultrasound, newer medications, intrathecal pump implants, spinal cord stimulators etc. have drastically refined diagnostic and interventional skills in pain management and are empowering us to keep pace with patient expectations. The genetic and molecular tests are being closely studied to enhance our understanding and will hopefully provide new targets for pain relief in the near future.

(The author is Head of Pain Management Services at Max Hospital)

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