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Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain

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Manage Pain Without Relying on Prescription Medications

The eruption of the opioid epidemic continues to receive nationwide attention, which could mean that those who live with chronic pain may be afraid to seek treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when a sharp increase in opioid prescriptions began to correspond with an increase in deaths due to prescription-opioid overdoses. Although prescribers have been wary of this trend, overdose deaths due to opioids continue to rise: 42,249 in 2016 — five times higher now than they were in 1999.

To help mitigate concerns of prescription medications, physical medicine and rehabilitation — the basis of treatment at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine — uses an all-encompassing approach to help patients manage pain and improve their overall health. The treatments offered at the Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center at Oakbrook Terrace are alternative and complementary options to medication for those who live with chronic pain. It is the only non-governmental pain management program in the state of Illinois that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

“Years ago, pain was associated as the fifth vital sign,” says Marianjoy physiatrist Victor Foorsov, MD. “Physicians were asked to address pain more aggressively as a result. I think that in a very small subset of patients, there is a place for opioids. However, for the vast majority of patients, the practice of contemporary pain management provides alternative management options that are safe, effective, comprehensive — and facilitate function.”

How the Program Works

The Comprehensive Pain Management Program team at the Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center works to identify the source of a patient’s pain to help find ways to manage its intensity instead of providing temporary relief with medication only. Available in various 21-day programs, or as individual outpatient appointments, the program offers several alternative treatments to help increase function and endurance, while also decreasing pain and reliance on pain medications, including:

  • Biofeedback: This non-invasive therapy enables patients to tune into the signals from their bodies to improve health and physical function by using electronic measuring devices to monitor and amplify involuntary body functions.
  • The Feldenkrais Method®: This body alignment technique helps patients increase self-awareness through mindful movements to help improve flexibility and range of motion and decrease pain.
  • Neural Mobilization: This hands-on treatment helps release local restrictions around the nerves and enhances proper functioning of the nervous system.
  • Manual Therapy: This hands-on treatment includes myofascial release, joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization and muscle energy techniques.
  • Graded Motor Imagery: This treatment is focused on training the brain to reconnect the body to the body part impacted by pain using motor imagery and mirror therapy.

These treatments are integrated into an individualized treatment plan to treat every patient’s unique needs. “Sometimes injections can be helpful to break the cycle of pain so that a patient can engage in physical therapy as a means of addressing the root cause of the pain for long-term benefit,” says Dr. Foorsov.

Treating Chronic Pain: An Act of Precision

Silpa Katta, MD, medical director of the Marianjoy Integrative Pain Treatment Center, says that chronic pain is more difficult to treat than temporary pain associated with a healing injury because the basis is psychological or neurological. “Chronic pain involves changes in the nervous system that create a physical effect,” says Dr. Katta. “We integrate treatments that target the nervous system as well as the mechanical dysfunction.”

“Effective, evidence-based treatment of pain early is key to help prevent the onset of chronic pain and a progressive sedentary lifestyle — elements involved in a loop that can be hard to break,” says Dr. Foorsov. “There is a lot of art in pain treatment. It’s an act of precision. Finding the pain generator is half the battle.”

If you have chronic pain or if someone you know is living with chronic pain, learn more about the treatments offered at the Marianjoy Comprehensive Pain Management Program.

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