House Calls

WIN 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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Nearly a third of the U.S. population—100 million Americans— suffers from chronic pain, costing the nation half a trillion dollars in medical costs and lost work productivity. Chronic pain is a condition that affects other facets of health, as well (from sleep quality to appetite to mood), and can lead to disability and despair. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, adults with chronic lower back pain are three times more likely to have additional health issues and a heightened risk of depression than pain-free peers. Fortunately, chronic pain is no longer a mystery; in almost every case, a cause of the discomfort can be identified and thus alleviated. That's where Dr. Thomas Wooten and the pain management team at Roper St. Francis come in. Working alongside neurosurgeons, family medicine doctors, and orthopedists, pain management specialists are able to pinpoint ongoing discomfort and attack it with injections of steroids and local anesthetics. "We are much better at identifying chronic pain and the strategies to fix it," says Dr. Wooten of modern pain management. "We often are able to get rid of the cause of the pain, and not to just prescribe drugs to cover it up." In general, pain can be classified into two categories: acute, defined as being short-lived yet severe, and chronic, or ongoing, pain. Acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts the body to possible injury—such as a pulled muscle, torn ligament, sprained ankle, or pinched nerve—and that fades after the injury has been treated or healed. Chronic pain, on the other hand, lingers for months (pain is considered chronic when it persists 12 weeks or more) and can result from an initial injury, like a back sprain or herniated disc, an illness, or wear and tear to the musculoskeletal system resulting in a degenerative condition such as arthritis. In some cases, the initial cause is unknown. Whether it's acute or chronic, pain communicates the same message. "Pain is a cry for help from our body," says Dr. Wooten. "It signals that something is wrong and needs attention." While people often seek help quickly for severe acute pain, we can be slower in responding to the dull yet debilitating effects of chronic pain. In fact, many people suffer through mild discomfort every day, only seeking help when pain flares up and becomes unbearable. Yet the sooner chronic pain is identified and treated, the better chance there is of correcting and curing it, says Dr. Wooten. "It's time to get help if you've been feeling pain for more than two weeks or if it's affecting your ability to sleep or do regular daily activities." The first step toward curtailing your chronic pain? Talk to your primary care doctor, who can refer you to a pain management specialist. When a patient is experiencing a debilitating level of pain, Dr. Wooten says the immediate goal is to help him or her return to their usual state of low-grade discomfort. "From there, we work to find a long-term solution," he says. Treatment options for chronic pain include medication (including over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen), physical therapy, infusion therapy (intravenous delivery of medication): neurostimulation therapy (applying low-dose electricity to nerves), surgery, and non-medical approaches such as acupuncture. The pain management team at Roper St. Francis specializes in another treatment option that's been making huge advancements in recent years: injections. 32 { winter 2018 } h o u s e c a l l s B efore modern medicine, the concept of pain was often misunderstood. In Incan cultures, holes were drilled through the skulls of "patients" in an attempt to relieve pain, while the ancient Egyptians used electric eels to "release" pain from wounds. And though we have a far better understanding of what the sensation is and why it occurs today, too many people still experience the daily torture of chronic pain. Dr. Thomas Wooten According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old, and more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain. Among those with chronic pain, data from the National Institute of Health Statistics shows that lower back pain is the most common (at 27 percent of cases), followed by severe headaches or migraines (15 percent), neck pain (15 percent), and facial pain (four percent). IDENTIFYING PAIN HALTING THE HURT P H O T O G R A P H ( D R . W O O T E N ) B Y T A Y L O R J O R D A N

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