Pain Treatment for Post-Traumatic Pain
By Asim S. Aijaz, M.D.
There are many nerves in the body, and Post-Traumatic Pain may happen due to a multitude of reasons. A bike accident, a fall, even surgery could injure one of these nerves that could prolong your pain music longer than you ever thought.
It’s important to get a proper diagnosis so you can start your pain management journey right. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about what Post-Traumatic Pain is, what causes it, and how we at APC can help treat it.
What is Post-Traumatic Pain?
Post-traumatic pain is any pain that lasts longer than it really should; usually disproportionate to what you think the pain will be. For example, if you sprain your ankle, you might expect it to get better in a few weeks, but the pain continues to persist much longer than that and feels way worse than you expect.
How does Post-Traumatic Pain Happen?
We as medical professionals aren’t certain about why it happens. What we think is that it is because of misfiring nerves or disproportional inflammatory reactions to the injury. We’d like to better understand why people get it, and there’s still research being done on the topic.
Most of the post-traumatic pain that we see at APC will occur after some sort of injury to an extremity like an arm or a leg. Sometimes, it will happen after surgery or a traumatic injury like a bad fall or sports injury. It could also happen in car accidents and can affect the spine, but the majority of the time, it happens in arms and legs.
What happens when you’re experiencing Post-Traumatic Pain?
On a general level (and one that you probably know already!), a blunt force to an extremity (an arm or a leg) will cause a lot of intense pain directly after the injury and for several days or weeks following it. After a while though, you’ll typically start to feel better as the pain becomes less and less intense until it eventually heals.
When your pain isn’t going away, it might mean that the nerves have some sort of disconnect between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system, causing prolonged pain.
There are basically two types of Post-Traumatic Pain: Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1 and Type 2.
In Type 1, there’s no obvious nerve injury involved. An example would be a sprained ankle, where you know you were injured but you did not injure a specific nerve.
In Type 2, there is obvious nerve damage with pain in the distribution of that nerve.
How does APC diagnose and treat Post-Traumatic Pain?
We’ll typically have to understand how the injury happened in order to diagnose it, and with proper history and physical examination, the diagnosis can be pretty simple.
Sometimes, though, physical therapy is too painful for the patient, in which case we might try an X-ray guided nerve block to try to calm down some of the pain so we can get that patient back to physical therapy so they can work on a range of motion exercises and desensitization.
One cool thing that our physical therapists will do with patients is touch therapy, where they’ll rub different textures on the injured area. Bed sheets, cotton, wool, velcro, all different textures to desensitize the area. Anything to get the pain to calm down so physical therapy can be more effective.
Other patients may need spinal cord stimulators, a very cool and innovative tool we have the privilege of utilizing at APC.
Never heard of a spinal cord stimulator? Basically, it’s a minimally invasive medical device that helps block pain signals from the affected area to your brain. You can even test it out before you have it implanted to make sure that it’s the right treatment for you.
The stimulator uses small, thin wires called leads that are inserted in your back. The pulse generator (stimulator) is attached to the leads, which creates electric pulses which blocks your pain signals. You can adjust the strength of the pulses with an external remote control that helps best block the pain you’re feeling.
If you’re interested more about how our spinal cord stimulator works, you can learn more about it here.
Our end goal is for our patients to manage their pain and regain as much strength and motion as possible. Improving their functionality to get them where they want to be, whether that’s holding their children again, getting back to a physically demanding job, or returning to the gym with confidence, is something that is important for us to help them get their lives back to normal.
If you are concerned you may have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Pain, it’s in your best interest to see a specialist at a pain care clinic like Advanced Pain Care.
What sometimes ends up happening is that patients will see other medical professionals and they are given pain medications that come with a lot of potential side effects, potentially compounding the issue even more. Sometimes, those side effects make patients tired, which discourages them from practicing physical therapy exercises or getting exercise on their own.
It’s important to come to a pain care clinic so we can talk to you more about what’s going on, while taking a super individualized approach.
Though we talk a lot of how much we love utilizing physical therapy as an option, sometimes patients are just in too much pain to endure it. As a clinic lucky enough to have the resources that we do, we have a ton of other options to help alleviate this pain.
Whatever the injury is, coming to a pain care clinic for chronic pain is an effective first step to help alleviate pain.