More than 100 million Americans live with chronic pain and can’t find relief with traditional modalities.
Chronic pain that is not treated successfully can become physically disabling, leading to depression, loss of sleep, missed workdays and decreased physical functioning, says Angie Rakes, M.D., medical director of the Pain Management Program at The Nebraska Medical Center. These issues often complicate a patient’s condition and make it necessary to use a combination of modalities to treat the patient’s pain effectively.
In fact, approximately 25 percent of patients with chronic pain have chronic pain syndrome – a complex of psychosocial issues that interfere with the successful management of their pain.
The Pain Management Program uses an individualized approach for each patient that addresses both physical and psychosocial factors and has been successful in providing effective relief to many patients, says Dr. Rakes. The program treats all types of chronic pain, including pain associated with many types of conditions such as headaches, back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis or complex regional pain syndrome.
Now in its 40th year, the program is the second largest pain center in the country. The Pain Management Program is unique in that it uses an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, neurosurgeons and psychologists, who specialize in pain. These health care professionals work together to develop an effective pain management program that incorporates psychological management of pain, as well as techniques such as manual physical therapy, biofeedback, meditation, relaxation, nutritional counseling and exercise such as tai chai and yoga. The program also teaches patients coping skills to help them better manage pain throughout their daily lives so that they may return to activities associated with family, school or work.
Individuals recommended for the program include those who have not had success with conventional pain management therapies, those taking opioid medications that are interfering with daily functioning and those experiencing opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Physicians can refer patients directly into the program.
“Getting help early is an important factor in providing the most effective pain relief, says Dr. Rakes. “The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more difficult it becomes to treat pain as it allows the body to generate a map to pain that is difficult to break.”
The Pain Management Program offers three or four-week treatment options that meets daily for eight hours. “Chronic pain is a multi-faceted problem that can’t always be resolved with a single approach such as a medication or an injection,” says Rex Schmidt, PsyD, clinical psychologist with the Pain Management Program. “Treating pain requires changing the central nervous system. We’ve found that by combining all of these therapies into an intense daily program that are done simultaneously, we are able to change the course of pain pathways to the central nervous system that results in a variety of positive outcomes.”
Data tracking patient outcomes has shown that the majority of patients leaving the program have:
- pain reduction of 36 percent
- 50 percent reduction of depression
- return to work rate of up to 75 percent
- pain medication reliance reduction of 68 percent
“We see patients who come in hopeless and are able to reclaim their lives again when they leave. Some people leave our program completely pain-free,” says Dr. Schmidt.