LEXINGTON For some people, acute or chronic pain is a fact of life. A New England Journal of Medicine article noted that “the magnitude of pain in the United States is astounding. More than 116 million Americans have pain that persists for weeks to years.”1 That total was higher than the number of Americans “affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined.”2 In percentages, the number of Americans in “some form or acute or chronic pain” is more than 30%, and among older adults “the prevalence of chronic pain is more than 40%.”3 Thus, pain is a devastating and debilitating chronic disease that physicians, especially pain management physicians, must treat and attempt to relieve. The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass specializes in pain management and is dedicated to helping patients cope with and overcome their pain.
The Center and its mission, to manage or alleviate pain, was started in the late 1980s by Ballard Wright, MD, an anesthesiologist. Back then, the medical specialty of pain management was one of the newer disciplines in medicine.
“As an anesthesiologist relieving pain during surgery, Dr. Wright and his colleagues discovered they could perform some of these same interventional techniques in an outpatient setting to help patients in chronic pain,” says Heather Wright, CEO of The Pain Treatment Center.
Effective Pain Medicine Needs Multiple Modalities
In 1988, Dr. Wright opened his physician practice, Ballard Wright, MD, PSC. Wright became board certified in pain management, and in 1993 he obtained a license for a surgery center, The Pain Treatment Center.
“Since then we’ve been operating both the physician practice and the surgery center as The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass,” says Heather. “In that time, we’ve expanded from the one building on the corner of Regency Road and Pasadena Drive to three buildings within this perimeter. We have eight physicians from different specialties; we have anesthesiologists, neurologists, physical medicine and rehab doctors, internal and family medicine doctors, an addiction medicine specialist, and a palliative care physician.”
The Center’s physicians utilize techniques from each specialty to diagnose and treat their patients, from interventional procedures, to physical therapy and behavioral medicine, to appropriate medications. The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass’ different departments and services facilitate the physicians’ treatment. The Center has an on-site lab, an imaging suite with a CT scanner and X-ray machine, an outpatient surgery center, a behavioral medicine department, and a rehab and physical therapy department.
Patients generally come to the Center upon referral from their primary care physician or another specialist. After an initial review of records, patients are scheduled to see the physician who performs an examination and creates an individualized treatment plan for the patient; the patient is encouraged to be active, involved and committed to the treatment plan, including seeing behavioral medicine, performing PT exercises, and taking their medication responsibly and appropriately.
“The best patient is the one who is going to be part of the program; because if they take ownership of it and they want to get better, that goes a long way,” Heather says. “We can work with them, but they need to want to do it.”
Treating the Mind and Body in Pain
An important component of the Center is its behavioral medicine department. Effective pain management requires treatment of both mind and body. Patients in pain often feel anxious, stressed, hopeless and depressed. The behavioral medicine department, which includes a psychiatric nurse practitioner and two licensed clinical social workers, addresses the emotional and psychological aspects of pain.
1 Alleviating Suffering 101-Pain Relief in the United States, N Engl J Med 3663 January 19, 2012.
2 Relieving Pain in America, A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies June 2011.
3 Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain-Misconceptipons and Mitigation Strategies, N Engl J Med 2016; 374:1253-1263
“For patients dealing with chronic pain, I talk with them and show them new ways to think about pain. I work with the patient to find solutions to more effectively manage that pain,” says Marie Simpson, LCSW. Working with a behavioral medicine specialist, patients learn coping skills to handle the psychological components of pain. These techniques help patients feel more in control of their situation. “Most patients find they can better manage their pain with just a few sessions,” emphasizes Kellie Dryden, LCSW.
The behavioral medicine specialists are also attuned to the possibility of addiction. “We use behavioral medicine to evaluate if somebody has the potential to have an addictive component to their personality,” states Heather. “We are always careful in how we prescribe medication, but we need to be very careful with those patients who have an addictive component.”
Physical Therapy is Part of the Plan
The physical therapy department works closely with patients, teaching them to strengthen certain muscles to alleviate pain and helping them learn to move better. “I keep my treatments as simple as possible using equipment that people can easily get for use at home,” says Jason Goumas, PT. “If they can’t do it at home, it is of little value. My job is to show you how to get yourself better and help out with things you can’t do on your own.”
“It all works together – interventional procedures, physical therapy, behavioral medicine, and pain medication,” says Heather. “There are a lot of people out there who have pain and have legitimate reasons for needing to be seen by a pain specialist. Our goal at The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass is to help alleviate or manage our patients’ pain and get them a better quality of life. That is our mission, and I am proud to say that over the past 30 years, our practice has helped tens of thousands of Kentuckians manage their pain in order to live life to its fullest.”
Article provided by Pain Treatment Center.