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Lesser-Known Ways to Deal with Chronic Pain That Don't Involve Medication

Lesser-Known Ways to Deal with Chronic Pain That Don't Involve Medication

Nearly 21% of American suffer from chronic pain, but pain medication isn’t necessarily the best solution. That practice kicked off in the 1990s when doctors prescribed OxyContin, a powerful addictive opioid painkiller. Addictions to the legal prescription led to a shift to illegal opioids like heroin, which led to the current crisis with fentanyl. 

Fortunately, McNulty Spine in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, offers several ways to combat chronic pain without using dangerous medications. As a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Patrick McNulty specializes in cutting-edge minimally invasive surgical procedures and spinal reconstruction procedures that address various disorders and deformities. 

Although it’s his specialty, surgery isn’t Dr. McNulty’s first treatment choice. Whenever possible, he recommends conservative, drug-free options to manage chronic pain and increase function. You may be familiar with some, and a few may be new to you.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is a tried-and-true approach to chronic pain, and we treatments to your unique needs. Although the modalities vary from patient to patient, they all have the same goal: to reduce inflammation, promote muscle relaxation, and increase mobility.

For back pain, physical therapists may use exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles in your back and promoting proper posture. Neck pain may benefit from heat and cold therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

Physical therapy can also help you prevent future injuries and reduce reliance on medications. 

Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic therapy focuses on improving the alignment of your spine and other joints throughout your body. Misalignments or subluxations in these areas can interfere with nerve function and lead to various health problems, including chronic pain.

Your chiropractic treatment session could include spinal adjustments, mobilization, and soft-tissue therapy, to manipulate your joints and muscles to increase circulation, promote healing, and reduce inflammation — ultimately relieving your chronic pain, especially neck or back pain and sciatica.

Radiofrequency ablation

Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a minimally invasive procedure Dr. McNulty often uses to treat chronic pain. 

During an RFA procedure, Dr. McNulty inserts a small needle into your skin near the affected nerves. He guides the needle to the targeted area using imaging technology such as X-rays or ultrasound. Once in place, radiofrequency energy heats the needle, destroying the targeted nerves and preventing them from sending pain signals to your brain.

RFA can provide long-lasting relief, often up to six months or longer, and may even permanently relieve pain in some cases. It's particularly effective for arthritis, back pain, neck pain, and joint pain.

Before the procedure, Dr. McNulty administers a local anesthetic to numb the area where he will insert the needle. You may feel slight discomfort or pressure but shouldn’t experience any significant pain. After the procedure, expect mild discomfort or soreness at the injection site, but these symptoms typically subside within a few days.

Spinal cord stimulation

With spinal cord stimulation (SCS), Dr. McNulty implants a small device implanted in your body to manage your pain symptoms. The SCS device delivers electrical impulses to your spinal cord to interrupt the pain signals sent to your brain.

The SCS procedure involves the insertion of a small wire called a lead into the epidural space around your spinal cord. The lead connects to a small device called a pulse generator that we implant under your skin near your buttocks or abdomen. The pulse generator sends electrical impulses to your spinal cord to interrupt pain signals, reducing pain perception.

SCS is most suitable if you have chronic pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It’s particularly effective for failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, and neuropathic pain.

Research has shown that SCS is a highly successful treatment option for chronic pain — up to 70% of patients experience at least 50% pain reduction, and many report an improvement in mood, sleep, and overall quality of life.

Other drug-free treatments for chronic pain

Dr. McNulty also offers joint and spinal injections and nerve blocks. Although these technically contain medication — a local anesthetic and a long-term corticosteroid — they aren’t opioids. 

Of course, should the underlying cause of your chronic pain require surgery, you’re in good hands with Dr. McNulty, our award-winning, nationally renowned spinal surgeon. Schedule a consultation with Dr. McNulty by requesting an appointment online or calling our friendly staff. 

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