Interventions to Manage Pain with Dr. Slavin & Dr. Simmons
Mary Beth Marsden discusses interventions to help manage chronic, occasional, as well as post-surgical pain with Dr. Justin Slavin, GBMC Neurosurgeon, and Dr. Charles Simmons, Medical Director of SMART Pain Management at GBMC.
Pain in and of itself isn’t a dangerous problem, but it can be debilitating. Drs. Slavin and Simmons emphasize that one of the most important aspects of pain management is identifying the cause of a person’s pain and developing the most effective solution.
Who should you see for your chronic pain?
The answer is, it depends. A neurosurgeon or other type of surgeon is typically involved in initiating a pain evaluation. “We want to make sure there isn’t anything dangerous (e.g. something impacting a nerve, the spinal cord, or other structure that requires immediate treatment) that is causing pain,” says Dr. Slavin. “After ruling out a dangerous issue, we typically work with our colleagues in pain management to find an effective, non-surgical treatment option. If these interventions aren’t productive, surgery might be indicated.”
Oftentimes, when a dangerous problem is ruled out, pain management is an important non-surgical tool for treatment.
Dr. Simmons explains, “My job is to identify the cause of the pain and a find solution. A person who is not a surgical candidate, for example, will often be referred to a pain management specialist. We make a comprehensive pain plan that may include physical therapy and short term, mild anti-inflammatories or even injections to alleviate the pain.”
How does pain management fit into a patient’s overall care?
“We can see patients as soon as they have pain, after they see a surgeon, and after surgery to manage post-surgical pain,” adds Dr. Simmons. “We can see patients at every point in their pain journey, in fact. Many times, a pain management specialist can identify the cause of the problem, and if we can’t treat the individual, we get them to the appropriate specialist who can.”
“Pain is a warning sign from your body telling you that something is not right and it warrants a medical work-up to identify the cause,” says Dr. Slavin. “If the problem is chronic or prolonged, it’s time to see a specialist.”